Symposium ‘20 years later: the legacy of Bosman’

Published 22 June 2015

On 18 June 2015, the ASSER International Sports Law Centre hosted a Symposium ‘20 years later: the legacy of Bosman’. The Symposium, which was the third in a series of four to celebrate the Asser Institute’s 50th anniversary in 2015, looked back to the European Court of Justice (CJEU)’s landmark ruling in the Bosman case and explored its significant legal and political relevance for the development of EU sports law and policy.

The event was divided in four main panel sessions and brought a number of distinguished speakers, such as Prof. Dr. Carl Otto Lenz, Advocate General during the proceedings in Bosman; Mr. Ian Forrester, partner at White & Case LLP, representing UEFA in Bosman; Prof. Dr. Stephen Weatherill, Oxford University; Prof. Dr. Simon Gardiner, Leeds Beckett University; Prof. Dr. Stefaan Van den Bogaert, Leiden University; Dr. Borja Garcia, Loughborough University; Mr. Yves Le Lostecque, European Commission, Head of Unit Sport Policy; Mr. Alasdair Bell, UEFA General Counsel and Director of Legal; and Mr. Theo van Seggelen, FIFPro Secretary-General.

After the opening speeches by Prof. Dr. Ben Van Rompuy and Prof. Dr. Robert Siekmann, the first panel ‘Getting to Bosman’ commenced with Stephen Weatherill’s presentation on the pre-Bosman reality and the scarce legal developments in the area of sports law in the period leading up to the 1995 judgment. Afterwards, Ian Forrester shared some insights on the proceedings before the CJEU and the argumentation presented by UEFA. Subsequently, Carl Otto Lenz discussed how he was selected as Advocate General for the case and how he experienced all the attention the case received.

During the second panel ‘Internal market and sport after Bosman’, Simon Gardiner focused on EU law issues concerning UEFA’s home-grown players rule. In this regard, he discussed matters such as the rule’s impact on youth promotion and development and the existence of possible alternatives. Antoine Duval held a presentation on the development of the FIFA transfer system and the legal questions that still surround the system.

The next session ‘EU competition law and sport after Bosman’ began with Ben Van Rompuy’s presentation on the application of the EU antitrust rules to regulatory aspects of sport. He took stock of the (national) decisional practice to date and stressed the important function of EU antitrust law to put checks and balances on sports bodies’ exercise of private regulatory power. Then, Stefaan Van den Bogaert discussed matters relating to the application of the EU State aid rules in the sports sector. He elaborated on the principles that can be derived from the European Commission’s emerging decisional practice.

During the fifth panel session, ‘Autonomy and governance of sport after Bosman’, Borja Garcia explained the impact of the Bosman ruling on the football governance structure and the empowerment of football players, whereas Yves Le Lostecque outlined the current role of the European Commission in the field of sport.

Lastly, in the closing speeches Alasdair Bell drew attention to the the negative consequences of the ruling in Bosman in connection with, e.g., youth development, the impact of the ever-growing commercialization of sport, and a noticeable trend among some clubs to focus more on trading players than winning football competitions. Theo van Seggelen gave a lively speech concerning FIFPro’s as well as his personal involvement in the Bosman case. Afterwards, he presented FIFPro’s ongoing concerns regarding the protection of footballers’ interests in connection with, inter alia, recurring protected periods, third-party ownership, and rules concerning intermediaries.