Moscow: Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko announced Wednesday that Russia will gradually reduce the number of foreign players, the prevalence of which in the country`s sports clubs has been seen as harming the performance of national teams.
He said his ministry has drafted legislation that would give it complete control over the number of foreigners playing in every sport in Russia.
"We`re interested to have the homegrown players at the leading positions in the country`s clubs," Mutko was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS news agency.
The number of foreign players in the country`s Premier League football clubs would be decreased to six, while the ice hockey, volleyball and basketball clubs would be able to include only three on their rosters as of 2018 according to the proposal.
The bill is expected to become law early next year.
It will give the government the means to impose its will on football club owners, who have repeatedly opposed the idea.
With foreign players helping generate interest and attendance, club owners have instead called for a complete cancellation of limits on foreigners.
Mutko acknowledged that reducing the number of foreigners in club sports is a difficult objective but would take into consideration the view of each sports federation.
"But we`re not going to adjust ourselves to every single club owner`s ambitions," he insisted.
"There`s no alternative to a strict limit (on foreigners)," he said.
The minister`s initiative came just after Russia`s national football team flopped at the World Cup in Brazil, where they failed to make it into the knockout stage from a relatively easy group.
Mutko has expressed an opinion that the high number of foreigners harms the national (football) squad which desperately needs to improve its performance for the 2018 World Cup, which Russia will host.
The 55-year-old minister, who is also a member of the executive board of world football ruling body FIFA, has compared the negative effect of foreign players in Russia to the situation in England, who also crashed out following the World Cup group stage.