POSTED: July 17th 2009

Don't change Olympic football system for 2012, Rogge tells FIFA

Argentina celebrate on their way to Olympic football gold in Beijing last year /
Argentina celebrate on their way to Olympic football gold in Beijing last year /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON/ZURICH: Olympic president Jacques Rogge wants to see football maintain the status quo over player restrictions at the summer Games of 2012 in London. This means sticking with the contentious format of players aged 23 plus the option of three over-age players.

Rogge was speaking after a visit to the headquarters of the world football federation in Zurich where he signed an agreement with FIFA president Sepp Blatter to exend co-operation between the two bodies over European issues and representation in Brussels.

His comments to over the Olympic issue follow debate over footballer eligibility at the Games.

FIFA’s executive has been considering dropping the age limit for players to 21 since 23 no longer ‘fits’ national team development systems and scrapping the over-age option which was barely used by coaches at the Beijing Games last year. However the IOC fears this would risk devaluing the tournament.

Rogge said: “Football has a very important place at the Olympic Games and it's very popular there. We believe that the standard of the teams must be as high as possible. We're satisfied with the current system, with players under 23 years of age and three older players, as that has already proved its worth. Because of that, we hope to change it as little as possible.”

Football is one of a number of sports – such as tennis - whose presence in the Olympic schedule is a subject of debate because the Games is not its most important competitive activity. Within FIFA consideration is being given to a reversion to an older eligibility system which threw Games open to all players – with the exception of those who had played at a World Cup finals tournament.


This apart, Rogge had only positive comments about the collaboration between FIFA and the IOC. He said: “We collaborate closely with FIFA in various domains, both in sporting terms and in relations between sport and politics.

"The IOC and FIFA work together a lot on the notion of the autonomy of sport and the protection of national associations, Olympic committees and international associations from all governmental or state interference that is incompatible with our values.”

Rogge, who recalled playing football in the streets as a youngster and then at rightback for the University of Ghent, nominated Belgium’s fourth-place finish at the 1986 World Cup among his favourite football memories.

He  expounded his belief that sport was not merely an economic activity but that its ultimate purpose was social. He said: “It’s about improving the health and education of youngsters – and this social role can only be defended if sport is accorded specificity.

"Otherwise, we fall into the general laws of the free market - free circulation of goods, services and financial flows. We need the financial resources to keep everything going, but that mustn't be the final goal. It's just a means to an end."

Both the IOC and FIFA are agreed in hoping for ratification for the Treaty of Lisbon with its clause recognising the specificity of sport.

Rogge claimed that European Union employment laws risked harming sport because “if a club is inundated with foreign players . . . local youngsters know they have no chance of getting into the team and will be less inclined to play sport.”

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Keywords · International Olympic Committee · IOC · Rogge · FIFA · Blatter · Beijing · Treaty of Lisbon · specificity

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