Yearbook of European Law - Vol. 4

By A. Barav; D. A. Wyatt | Go to book overview

Discrimination on Grounds of Nationality
in Sport*

STEPHEN WEATHERILL


I. Introduction

This paper is concerned with labour practices which are discriminatory on grounds of nationality and which are put into effect by private employers. The example chosen for the purposes of analysis is the discrimination against non-nationals practised by football clubs in most Member States of the Community, but it is suggested that the problem under investigation extends beyond football and indeed beyond sport, to discriminatory preferences which may be exercised by private bodies such as trade unions, professional bodies, employers, or employers' associations. The legal issue which appears to pose most difficulty in this area is the potential overlap between Articles 48 and 85-86 of the Treaty of Rome. It is suggested that the discrepancies which exist between these provisions are accentuated by the possibility that action to combat the discriminatory rules may be taken on two levels, at Community level and/or at national level, making use of national systems of remedies before national courts.


II. The discriminatory player restrictions

All the fifteen national football associations in the twelve Member States of the European Community1 are members of UEFA,2 European football's governing body, the headquarters of which are in Switzerland and which has over thirty member national associations. In most countries, limits are placed on the number of foreign players who are permitted to play for clubs in domestic fixtures, ostensibly in order to protect the well-being of the domestic game. The limits vary. In Italy, the maximum has recently been raised from two to three, and all leading clubs take advantage of this concession. In England, where in practice foreign players are relatively rare, clubs may not field more than three players who are not citizens of the United Kingdom or who have not been resident in the United Kingdom for a

____________________
*
© Stephen Weatherill, 1989, University of Nottingham. The author bears sole responsibility for all opinions expressed and errors perpetrated in this article. However, he is pleased to acknowledge the valuable constructive criticism of Professor Gillian White of the University of Manchester, Dr Vaughan Lowe of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and the Editors of the YEL.
1
The numerical discrepancy arises because there are four associations in the UK.
2
Union des Associations Europeennes de Football.

-55-

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