MOSCOW, April 1 (R-Sport) - A week after President Vladimir Putin urged Russian sports managers to focus on cultivating domestic talent, a group of influential former Russian footballers is putting forward a plan to restrict the number of foreigners allowed in the game to six per club by the year 2017.
The Russian FA in August 2012 voted to allow seven foreign players, rather than the previous six, to be on the pitch at any one time, a move that was criticized in some circles for stifling local talent.
But if former internationals Valery Karpin, Sergei Semak, Sergei Rodionov, Nikolai Pisarev and ex-Dynamo Moscow midfielder Vladimir Leonchenko get their way, no club will be able to have more than six non-Russians on their books by 2017. There is currently no limit on how many foreigners a club is allowed to have.
"The issue is not only about the quantity of foreigners, but also of the quality," said Leonchenko, 41. "In the lower half of the table many clubs don't correspond with the level of the Premier League," he added.
The initiative is part of the group's incoming manifesto as they seek election to the Russian Premier League's executive committee - the vote is April 26 - and comes just over a week after Putin slammed the practice of hiring foreigners at the expense of promising youngsters who could eventually help the national team achieve worthy results.
"Today's practice of hiring at clubs does not take into account the interests of the national teams," Putin said, referring to a multitude of team sports including football and hockey, according to a Kremlin statement.
"We need to build our work in such a way as to raise the professional level of our national players and coaches, to search for gifted and bright athletes and create from them a genuine, flowing, confident team. Only in that way can we count on victory," Putin added.
Commenting on the shift in foreigner restrictions from players allowed on the field to overall squad numbers, Leonchenko said that would allow for genuine, merit-based competition for starting places rather than arbitrarily giving playing time to eleven Russians.
The group's plan would introduce the new quota in increments, starting with a maximum of 11 foreigners next season, eight for 2015-16, seven for the following season and finally six in 2017-18 - which culminates in the World Cup in Russia.
If Karpin, Leonchenko and the others are voted onto the executive committee, their initiative could be voted upon immediately or put off for another day.
Karpin said that his ideal league would be one without a foreigner limit, as was the case when he played in the Spanish league, but said the key issue in Russia was that most professional football clubs are funded by state-controlled companies or regional governments.
"If the money's from the state, then let's spend it on local footballers," he said.
Under current Russian FA rules, Russians with dual nationality who choose to play for another country are treated as foreigners for quota purposes.