Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Football Association ASBL v Jean-Marc Bosman (1995) C-415/93 (known as the Bosman ruling)[1] is a 1995 European Court of Justice decision concerning freedom of movement for workers, freedom of association, and direct effect of article 39[2] (now article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) of the TEC. The case was an important decision on the free movement of labour and had a profound effect on the transfers of footballers within the European Union (EU).

Bosman ruling
European stars.svg
Submitted 6 October 1993
Decided 15 December 1995
Full case nameUnion 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 numberC-415/93
Case TypeReference for a preliminary ruling
ChamberFull chamber
Nationality of partiesBelgium
Procedural historyCour d'appel de Liège, 9e chambre civile, arrêt du 1 October 1993 (29.426/92)
Court composition
G. Federico Mancini
Gil Carlos Rodríguez Iglesias
Advocate General
Carl Otto Lenz
Legislation affecting
Interprets Article 48, TEEC

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:


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 club. However, Dunkerque refused to meet his Belgian club's transfer fee demand, so Liège refused to release Bosman.[3]

In the meantime, Bosman's wages were reduced as he was no longer a first-team player.[4] 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 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 footballers were given the right to a free transfer at the expiration of their contracts, provided that they transfer 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 throughout the EU in 1995, several notable players in European football have benefited from the ruling.[5] In 1996, Edgar Davids became Europe's first high-profile player to benefit from the ruling when he moved from Ajax to Milan. Ex-Hibernian FC player, Paul Kane became the first UK Bosman transfer, moving from Aberdeen FC to Norwegian side Viking Stavanger[6] in 1996. In 1999, Steve McManaman became the most lucrative transfer at the time in British football, as "Britain's first high-profile Bosman departure",[7] when he moved from Liverpool to Real Madrid and the deal resulted in McManaman becoming the highest paid British player in history, from 1999 to 2001.[8] 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 could no longer block a move or demand a fee, from the player or from the destination club, if the player 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 it was 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.[9]

Significance in EU lawEdit

Bosman confirmed the "rule of reason" approach of the courts used in the important Cassis de Dijon case as not only suitable for issues relating to movement of goods within the EU, but also for cases concerning the free movement of workers.

If free movement is indistinctly applied (i.e. not just against foreign nationals) it could be justified if...

  1. The measures used were in pursuit of a legitimate aim
  2. That aim was justified by pressing reasons of public interest

The case also alludes to the fact that Alpine Investments v Minister van Financiën provides a similar test for services, and Gebhard v Consiglio dell'Ordine degli Avvocati e Procuratori di Milano for establishment.

Other casesEdit

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.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ [1995] ECR I-4921
  2. ^ "Article 39, Treaty Establishing the European Community". EUR-Lex. Publications Office of the European Union. Archived from the original on 15 June 2008. Retrieved 27 August 2008.
  3. ^ Burton, Mark (21 September 1995). "Who is Jean-Marc Bosman?". The Independent. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  4. ^ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/competitions/premier-league/12047806/How-the-Bosman-revolution-changed-football-for-ever.html
  5. ^ "Bosman summer holiday". BBC Sport. 16 March 1999. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  6. ^ "Bosman transfer ruling stunted Scottish game - Paul Kane". BBC. 15 December 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  7. ^ "How money took over football… in 1879". FourFourTwo. 6 January 2009. Archived from the original on 7 January 2010. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  8. ^ Raphael, Amy (4 March 2001). "Our man in Madrid". The Observer. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  9. ^ "Uefa to discuss Bosman drawbacks". BBC Sport. 15 December 2005. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  10. ^ "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.

External linksEdit