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Bosman ruling
Official insignia of the European Court of Justice
European Court of Justice
Submitted 6 October, 1993
Decided 15 December, 1995
Full case name Union royale belge des sociétés de football association ASBL v Jean-Marc Bosman, Royal club liégeois SA v Jean-Marc Bosman and others and Union des associations européennes de football (UEFA) v Jean-Marc Bosman.
Case number C-415/93
Case type Reference for a preliminary ruling
Chamber Full chamber
Nationality of parties Belgium
Procedural history Cour d'appel de Liège, 9e chambre civile, arrêt du 01/10/1993 (29.426/92)
1. Article 48 of the EEC Treaty precludes the application of rules laid down by sporting associations, under which a professional footballer who is a national of one Member State may not, on the expiry of his contract with a club, be employed by a club of another Member State unless the latter club has paid to the former club a transfer, training or development fee.

2. Article 48 of the EEC Treaty precludes the application of rules laid down by sporting associations under which, in matches in competitions which they organize, football clubs may field only a limited number of professional players who are nationals of other Member States.

3. The direct effect of Article 48 of the EEC Treaty cannot be relied upon in support of claims relating to a fee in respect of transfer, training or development which has already been paid on, or is still payable under an obligation which arose before, the date of this judgment, except by those who have brought court proceedings or raised an equivalent claim under the applicable national law before that date.
Court composition
Legislation affecting
Interprets Article 48, TEEC

The Bosman ruling (Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Football Association ASBL & others v. Jean-Marc Bosman; Case C-415/93, ECR I-4921) is a 1995 European Court of Justice decision concerning freedom of movement for workers, freedom of association and direct effect of article 39[1] (formerly 48) of the EC Treaty. The case was an important decision on the free movement of labour and had a profound effect on the transfers of football players within the EU. The case banned restrictions of foreign EU members within the national leagues and allowed professional football players in the European Union (EU) to move freely to another club at the end of their term of contract with their present team.

As a consequence, many footballers born outside of the EU now take advantage of EU naturalisation rules to obtain a passport of an EU member country, (by for example investigating whether they had any European ancestors, or by meeting long term residency requirements), to enhance their employability across Europe.

The ruling was made in a consolidation of three separate legal cases, all involving Belgian player Jean-Marc Bosman:


Initial challenge

Bosman was a player in the Jupiler League in Belgium, whose contract had expired in 1990. He wanted to change teams and move to Dunkerque, a French team. However, Dunkerque did not offer his Belgian club RFC Liège enough of a transfer fee, so Liège refused to let him go.

In the meantime, Bosman's wages were reduced as he was no longer a first-team player. He took his case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and sued for restraint of trade citing FIFA's rules regarding football, specifically Article 17. After a tough legal battle he won his case, and on December 15, 1995 the court ruled that the system, as it was constituted, placed a restriction on the free movement of workers and was prohibited by Article 39(1) of the EC Treaty. Bosman and all other EU football players were given the right to a free transfer at the end of their contracts, with the provision that they were transferring from a club within one EU Association to a club within another EU Association. Prior to that, professional clubs in parts of Europe (but not, for example, in Spain and France) were able to prevent players from joining another club even if their contracts had expired. In Britain, Transfer Tribunals had been in place since 1981 to solve disputes over fees between clubs when transferring players at the end of their contracts.

In addition to this, players can sign a pre-contract with another club for a free transfer if the players' contract with their existing club has 6 months or less remaining. The Bosman ruling can be compared to the Seitz decision in Major League Baseball, which led to the elimination of the reserve clause and the advent of free agency in American baseball.

Effect on UEFA and its response

The Bosman ruling also prohibited domestic football leagues in EU member states, and also UEFA, from imposing quotas on foreign players to the extent that they discriminated against nationals of EU states. At that time, many leagues placed quotas restricting the number of non-nationals allowed on member teams. Also, UEFA had a rule that prohibited teams in its competitions, namely the Champions League, Cup Winners' Cup and UEFA Cup, from naming more than three "foreign" players in their matchday squads. After the ruling, quotas could still be imposed, but could only be used to restrict the number of non-EU players on each team.

On April 21, 2005, UEFA 52 member federations unanimously approved a rule designed to increase the number of locally trained players. The measure is an attempt to reverse some of the effects of the Bosman ruling. UEFA's chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson was reported by CNN to have said that some of the major clubs in Europe like Chelsea and Real Madrid were not happy with this rule, and that he did not rule out the possibility of a court challenge.

Effect on other sports

The Bosman ruling was considered and distinguished in Lehtonen (2000), a similar case which involved a deadline imposed by FIBA after which basketball teams could not include players who had played for another team in the same season, where it was found that such a restriction was lawful.

See also


External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:



Named after Jean-Marc Bosman, a Belgian footballer whose legal action against his football club led to the ruling


Bosman ruling

Bosman rulings

Bosman ruling (plural Bosman rulings)

  1. (soccer) A legal ruling allowing professional footballers in the UEFA to change club under a free transfer at the end of their contracts.


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