Case Law: Bosman

2 Colum. J. Eur. L. 345 (1996)

Piet Van Nuffel. Fellow, Foundation for Scientific Research-Flanders, Institute for European Law, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Case C-415/93, Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Football Association v. Jean-Marc Bosman, Royal Club Lidgeois v. Jean-Marc Bosman and others, and UEFA v. Jean-Marc Bosman, December 15, 1995, 1995 E.C.R. 1-4921 Freedom of movement for workers; Competition Rules; Professional soccer players; Rules on the transfer of players; Nationality clauses

1. The Bosman-Saga: Introduction

Never before the Court of Justice had to accommodate such press attention as the day of its decision in the Bosman-case, its first judgment to receive so extensive coverage in legal and non-legal circles alike. This was, however, no surprise, since at stake was the organization of Europe’s far most popular sport: soccer (in Europe called football). The case concerned the rules laid down by soccer associations under which the transfer of a player to a new club was dependent on the payment of a fee to the player’s old club. Furthermore, the Court of Justice ruled on sporting rules limiting the numbers of foreign players who may be fielded in a match, the so-called nationality clauses. The interest surrounding the Bosman-case also stemmed from the fact that the case assumed the proportions of a saga, with the little “hero” Bosman fighting the powerful Belgian and European soccer associations despite pressure from their part to drop his case. The case is not only a sympathetic example of David beating Goliath with a sling provided by European law, free movement of workers. It also shows a European Court of Justice eloquently solving a highly emotional dispute by means of a carefully reasoned judgment, preceded by an elaborated opinion of Advocate General Lenz. In his opinion, Advocate General Lenz highlighted the case’s deep impact on the the future of soccer, and other sports, where transfer rules and rules on foreign players exist, and emphasized the need to take into account both sporting and economic considerations in this case of interest to all soccer enthusiasts, players and spectators.