|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 type||Reference for a preliminary ruling|
|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 expiration 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.
|Interprets Article 48, TEEC|
Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Football Association ASBL v Jean-Marc Bosman (1995) C-415/93 (known as the Bosman ruling) is a 1995 European Court of Justice decision concerning freedom of movement for workers, freedom of association, and direct effect of article 39 (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 European Union (EU).
The decision banned restrictions on foreign EU players within national leagues and allowed players in the EU to move to another club at the end of a contract without a transfer fee being paid.
The ruling was made in a consolidation of three separate legal cases, all involving Belgian player Jean-Marc Bosman:
- Belgian Football Association v Jean-Marc Bosman
- R.F.C. de Liège v Jean-Marc Bosman and others
- UEFA v Jean-Marc Bosman
Jean-Marc Bosman was a player for RFC Liège in the Belgian First Division in Belgium whose contract had expired in 1990. He wanted to change teams and move to Dunkerque, a French team. However, Dunkerque refused to meet his Belgian club's transfer fee demand, 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.
On 15 December 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 (now Article 45 (1) of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union). 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 the Bosman ruling, professional clubs in some parts of Europe (but not, for example, in Spain and France) were able to prevent players from joining a club in another country even if their contracts had expired. In the United Kingdom, Transfer Tribunals had been in place since 1981 to resolve disputes over fees between clubs when transferring players at the end of their contracts. The Bosman ruling meant that players could move to a new club at the end of their contract without their old club receiving a fee. Players can now agree a pre-contract with another club for a free transfer if the players' contract with their existing club has six months or less remaining.
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 squads for any game. After the ruling, quotas could still be imposed, but could only be used to restrict the number of non-EU players on each team.
Since the ruling came into effect in all of the EU in 1995, several notable players in European football have benefited from the ruling. In 1996, Edgar Davids became Europe's first high-profile player to benefit from the ruling, when he moved from Ajax to AC Milan. In 1999, Steve McManaman became the most lucrative transfer at the time in British football, as "Britain’s first high-profile Bosman departure", when he moved from Liverpool to Real Madrid and the deal resulted in McManaman once becoming the highest paid British player in history, for the years 1999 through 2001. Since Davids and McManaman, scores of other notable players became able to negotiate deals according to their market value when their contracts expired; a trend that continued into the 2000s and beyond.
The ruling meant that clubs would no longer profit from selling players who they had helped to develop if they left at the end of their contracts.
The Bosman ruling coincided directly with a new era of financial gains in football. In 2005, UEFA declared that they were seeking to repair aspects of the ruling, because it was believed to be the cause of the increasing rich-poor gap between elite and smaller clubs.
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.
- Retain and transfer system
- Kingaby v Aston Villa, a similar 1912 court case in England
- Eastham v Newcastle United, a similar 1963 court case in England
- Seitz decision, a similar 1975 arbitration case in the North American Major League Baseball
- Kolpak ruling, which extended Bosman to countries with an associate trading relationship with the EU, most notably the ACP countries
- Webster ruling, a post-Bosman ruling which formalised the 'buy-out' rules for disputed transfers of players still within their contract term
- 6+5 rule
- Meca-Medina ruling, the ruling that finally decided whether all sports federations and national leagues were obligated to follow the EU laws
-  ECR I-4921
- "Article 39, Treaty establishing the European Community". EUR-Lex. Publications Office of the European Union. Retrieved 27 August 2008.
- Burton, Mark (21 September 1995). "Who is Jean-Marc Bosman?". The Independent. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
- Phillips, Martin (21 March 2011). "Jean-Marc Bosman’s fight against depression and alcoholism". The Sun. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
- "Bosman summer holiday". BBC Sport. 16 March 1999. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- "How money took over football… in 1879". FourFourTwo. 6 January 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- Raphael, Amy (4 March 2001). "Our man in Madrid". The Observer (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- "Uefa to discuss Bosman drawbacks". BBC Sport. 15 December 2005. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- "Judgment of the Court (Sixth Chamber) of 13 April 2000 - Jyri Lehtonen and Castors Canada Dry Namur-Braine ASBL v Fédération royale belge des sociétés de basket-ball ASBL (FRBSB)". EUR-Lex. Publications Office of the European Union. 13 April 2000. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
- Text of the ECJ Ruling EUR-Lex, Publications Office of the European Union
- Pearson, Geoff. "The Bosman Case, EU Law and the Transfer System". Football Industry Group, University of Liverpool. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- "What was the Bosman ruling? The one minute guide". OpenLearn. The Open University. Retrieved 25 September 2015.