Day of Reckoning – Bosman Ruling to be Overturned.

Posted by Steve_M on March 31, 2006, 11:20:15 PM

This appeared in Thursday’s English language edition of Die Luxembouger Zeitung.  As it would appear to have repercussions for all major European clubs, including Liverpool, we thought it should be placed here. 

Martin Groskamp

Die Luxembourger Zeitung

29 Marz 2006

It seems the days of the big European football clubs running scared of high profile players leaving under the so-called ‘Bosman’ legislation may be drawing to a close.  Next Tuesday the Tribunale Sportif will meet at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg Stadt to make a formal ruling on a point of law put before them by Tibor Grospeth, the chairman of Horvadesh, a small Hungarian second division team. 

Mr Grospeth may not be a name that causes any immediate recognition, but it the court finds in his favour, his surname will become as famous, if not as infamous, as that of Belgian footballer, Jean-Marc Bosman. 

Bosman, a modest player in lower league Belgian football was out of contract at his club, RFC Liege.  Rather than sign a new contract and accept a wage cut of 66%, Bosman negotiated a transfer to French second division team, Dunkerque.  Initially Liege agreed to the move and Bosman signed for his new club.  However at the last moment, Liege demanded a huge increase in the agreed transfer fee with the result that Dunkerque pulled out of the deal, but left Bosman in no-man’s land, as Liege still retained his registration.  They refused to release him unless they received some form of recompense.  Naturally aggrieved at this state of affairs, Bosman took RFC Liege to court claiming that they operated a restrictive practice, which prevented him earning his living. 

In December 1995, the European Court of Justice found in his favour and opened the floodgates for players to move to whichever clubs they wished without any undue influence from their former employers.  Essentially clubs could no longer retain the registration of players whom they no longer had under contract.  Once the contract expired, players were free to sign for whoever wanted. 

Many commentators believe that the success of the English Premier League and the Spanish La Liga is down to Bosman, as it allowed clubs to attract top players from other European clubs, such as Dutch superstar, Ruud Guillit without having to pay huge transfer fees.  Money that previously was paid to other clubs for the players in transfer fees, now went directly into the players pockets as wages skyrocketed and made certain leagues much more attractive options.  Surely it can be no coincidence that the Champions League winners on five occasions in the last ten years have come from these two leagues. 

Now however it seems the money train may be about to come to a juddering halt in the leafy suburbs of Luxembourg.  At least where players are concerned.  Mr Grospeth (56), a short, rotund man who bears a striking resemblance to his legendary countryman, Ferenc Puskas believes that the original court ruling was interpreted wrongly and that it should only apply to transfers such as Bosman’s which involved movement between separate EU countries.  In fact, Luca Brazzi, an EU legislation expert retained by Turin giants, Juventus believes that the original court papers only specified the transfer movement between Belgium and France and that it did not cover the rest of the EU.  Hence the reason that the powerful G-14 group of clubs, such as AC and Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munchen are watching movements very closely. 

Although UEFA have so far refused to comment, sources within the organization in Sion, Schweiz, believe various representations have already been made to the Tribunale Sportif.  These include that clubs will be able to retain the registrations of players whose contracts have expired until a transfer fee is decided by an independent panel.  UEFA would like to see such panels in each member EU state to help protect clubs from players being poached.  It is no secret that UEFA has grown increasingly frustrated at a growing list of complaints from clubs about players being coerced into allowing their contracts to run down in order to join another club without a fee having to be paid.  UEFA is prepared to argue that the clubs run costly businesses, subject to severe fluctuations and should be allowed to sell their commodities (players) without fear of incurring huge losses to the advantage of rival businesses (other clubs) without undue restrictions being placed on them.  Uwe Seeler, Business Manager of Bayern Munchen was quoted recently as saying that they would incur a loss of up to €12m if Michael Ballack leaves under a ‘Bosman’ next summer. 

London Arsenal chairman, David Dein will also be watching proceedings closely as it is no secret that the Catalunya giants, Barcelona are keeping a close watch on his French striker, Thierry Henry.  The outcome on Tuesday may mean the difference between a €25 million windfall for the London club or another player that walks away with a huge pre-contract signing fee and bulging wage packet. 

For Tibor Grospeth, the outcome has a much starker reality.  By Wednesday he will know if the €115,000 he wants for his out of contract star striker, Karl Nyali will be a realistic possibility that will keep his club afloat for another year or whether he will be forced to put his beloved Horvadesh up for sale simply to keep it in existence.  Such is the fate of many clubs awaiting the outcome throughout Europe. 

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