Twitter Logo Youtube Circle Icon LinkedIn Icon

Publishing firms

Legal Developments worldwide

Retention of football players

June 2010 - Employment. Legal Developments by Norrbom Vinding Law Firm, member of ius laboris.

More articles by this firm.

It is not a barrier to the free movement of labour for sports clubs to require players they have trained to sign their first professional contract with the club.

EU member states are not allowed to prevent the free movement of labour unless certain criteria are met. But what reasons are sufficiently legitimate? This was the question before the European Court of Justice in a case from the football world.  

The case concerned a young football player in a French club who decided to sign a contract with an English club when his football training was completed. His French club argued that this was in breach of the then current French regulations, which in fact protected the clubs' wish to retain young talents trained by them. In other words, a football player was obligated to sign his first professional contract with the club which had trained him.   The French club therefore claimed damages equivalent to the player's annual pay in the club.  

Talent development was a legitimate objective
Initially, the ECJ emphasised that restriction of the free movement of labour is only allowed if it is proportional and pursues a legitimate objective. On the basis of these overall criteria, the ECJ then tried the legality of the French regulations.  

First of all, the ECJ noted that a sports club which has invested money in training players is entitled to require the players to sign their first professional contract with the club. Secondly, the ECJ held that the 'threat' of damages is an appropriate measure to ensure that young talents do not leave the nest too early. However, as the amount of damages claimed did not match the actual costs of the training provided by the club, the French rule on damages equivalent to the player's annual pay was not compatible with the free movement of labour provisions in the Treaty.

www.norrbomvinding.com