One Step Forward, Two Hops Backwards: Quotas-The Return: An Excavation into the Legal Deficiencies of the FIFA 6+5 Rule and the UEFA Home-Grown Players Rule in the Eyes of the European Union Law

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1. Introduction

Football has for a long time claimed its specificity and exemption from the so called ordinary legislations. It has since time immemorial adopted certain customs; lex sportiva, such as the payment of transfer fees by one club to the other for the signing of players, transfer windows and protected periods among other features.

It is, was and most likely will be clearly understandable that football is a specific sport. The specificity around which the regulations governing football have been built along three key pillars:

  The need for clubs to maintain their financial stability;
  The economic importance of football as a means of livelihood for
  those who play and run it as a profession;
  The need for football to fulfil its objectives as s social and
  recreational activity.

The future and survival of football is dependent on how well it shall be able to self regulate itself in a manner which appreciates and encompasses these three pillars in one.

The EU has been quick to acknowledge and respect this specificity as evidenced in its white paper on sports and in the judgments delivered by the ECJ whose general principles are that sports is subject to the EU laws in as far as it constitutes an economic activity.

Whereas the football authorities (FIFA and UEFA) have been quick to enact legislations aimed at securing the future of the sport, it has to be said that a majority of these regulations have been directed towards those who are privileged enough to force their entry into the sport as a profession, either as players or clubs, and not towards the vast majority of clubs and players who engage in the sport as a recreational activity, perhaps with one eye set on turning it into a profession.

1.1. History of quotas

Before 1995, UEFA and European football leagues maintained a widespread practice of limiting the number of other EU nationals in a team to three players plus two others who were considered assimilated because they had played in their country for an un interrupted period of five years. This was called the three plus five rule.

It was however not until 1995 when these disparities were reviewed to the effect that players ceased to become the club's "property", with foreigners, more importantly, being free to play in any national league matches without any limitations. There became greater freedom of work and movement for players, at least within the EU territory.

These were the consequences of the landmark ruling in the case of ASBL v. Jean-Marc Bosman Case C 415/93, ASBL v. Jean-Marc Bosman, ECR I-4921, which laid to rest the established minimum quotas and restrictions on the number of EU foreign players who were eligible to feature in certain UEFA competitions and European leagues.

This ruling sent out a clear message that sports and football were subject to the EU laws in as far as they constituted an economic activity. Only when the rules in issue related to the laws of the game i.e. the playing laws would the EU not interfere.

2. Motives and Objects for the Research

2.1. Modern day anti labour restrictions from football's governing bodies

Despite this EU intervention and the Bosman ruling, modern day restrictions continue to engulf football. The FIFA transfer windows, transfer fees among other regulations are just but an example.

However, it is the two latest attempts by FIFA and UEFA aimed at restricting the number of foreigners eligible to feature for any particular team, or the ability of minors to play the sport for recreation while keeping in mind the future potential benefits they could secure from it which draw our attention as to how compatible these attempts are with EU laws. Whether or not the recent FIFA and UEFA 6+5 and home-grown player's rules can be seen as giant steps towards re directing football into the pre Bosman era are questions to be answered herein. …