The Bosman ruling. How football was slowly killed off.


The last week the football world was shocked by the set up of this so called European Super League, consisting of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea ,Tottenham Hotspurs, AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, and instigator Juventus.

I don’t see why so many were surprised about this development. This was in the making for decades.

Also since we are getting close to the UEFA Champions league finals , it is a good time to look back at the one player who has had a major impact on European and indeed world football. And possibly as an unintended consequence triggered the sequence leading up tp the European Super League

ironically this player never played in any of the Champions league finals, he didn’t even get close. However the actions of this player had a great consequence to one of the potential finalists in previous years, AJAX FC.

Ajax last won the champion ship in 1995 when they beat AC Milan 1-0 on the 24th of May.


In that same year 1995 ,10 days before Christmas a player  for RFC Liège in the Belgian First Division in Belgium. Jean-Marc Bosman left the courts with an early Christmas present.

Jean-Marc Bosman whose contract had expired in 1990, wanted to change teams and move to Dunkerque, a French club. However, Dunkerque declined  to meet Bosman’s Belgian club’s transfer fee demand, so Liège refused to release Bosman.

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 the system, as it was constituted, placed a restriction on the free movement of workers.

This ruling meant Bosman and every other EU footballer were free to negotiate deals to any other EU based team after their current contracts expired, they were also allowed to sign pre-contract deals with other clubs if they had six months remaining on their current deals. This ruling also stopped UEFA imposing quotas on how many foreign players are allowed to play in a team at any one time. At the time UEFA were imposing a quota on their European Cup competitions that only allowed three non nationals in a team on match days. However these quotas were not fully outlawed, it could not be used to restrict the amount of non EU players on a match day team.


Although this ruling may look to be have been good news for players it did have unintended consequences for the smaller footballing nations.

Big UEFA member associations like the England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France who had and still have substantial financial means were able to offer massive salaries to players. And therefore attracted many of the talented players from  the smaller, or less well of associations and leaving clubs who used to be very successful on the European stage with often depleted teams. Teams like Ajax who have a well established academy lost a lot of their trained pupils to the bigger teams.

It had taken Ajax 24 years to get back to the top of European football.

The salaries of some of the players are beyond believe and it will only be a matter of time before it comes unsustainable to continue paying players the amounts they get played now.

As for Jean-Marc Bosman himself, his life did not come up roses either. Despite receiving a £312,000 compensation package in 1998, he has since struggled with an alcohol addiction, as well as depression.

In 2013 he was sentenced to a one-year prison sentence for domestic abuse. As of 2015, Bosman was unemployed and relying on handouts from FIFPro ,the worldwide representative organisation for 65,000 professional footballers.

Coming back to the start of this blog it was because of this ruling there was no longer a cap on players salaries nor how much a club could earn. Football therefor became a very attractive industry. Some very wealthy men saw this as a potential extremely lucrative investment, which really had very little to do with sports but everything to do with revenue.


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