The football season is approaching its end and we are awaiting the final in Europe's top league, the UEFA Champions League. Beginning this season (2008/09) the UEFA's Champions League regulation requires a club to register a squad compromising a maximum of 25 players, of which at least 8 players must be "locally trained players" (the so called "home-grown players"). Otherwise the squad must be reduced accordingly.
The aim of this article is to analyse the "home-grown player rule" with regard to the application of Article 81(1) and (3) EC, in particular considering the statements of the ECJ in the Meca-Medina case (1). Subsequent thereto, a short appraisal will be given with regard to Articles 82 and 39 EC.
The Regulations of the UEFA Champions League
"Conditions for Registration: List A
17.08 No club may have more than 25 players on List a during the season. as a minimum, places 18 to 25 on List a (eight places) are reserved exclusively for "locally trained players" and no club may have more than four "association-trained players" listed in places 18 to 25 on List A. List a must specify the eight players who qualify as being "locally trained", as well as whether they are "club-trained" or "association-trained". The possible combinations that enable clubs to comply with the List a requirements are set out in Annex VIII.
17.09 a "locally trained player" is either a "club-trained player" or an "association trained player".
17.10 a "club-trained player" is a player who, between the age of 15 (or the start of the season during which he turns 15) and 21 (or the end of the season during which he turns 21), and irrespective of his nationality and age, has been registered with his current club for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons (i.e. a period starting with the first official match of the relevant national championship and ending with the last official match of that relevant national championship) or of 36 months.
17.11 an "association-trained player" is a player who, between the age of 15 (or the start of the season during which the player turns 15) and 21 (or the end of the season during which the player turns 21), and irrespective of his nationality and age, has been registered with a club or with other clubs affiliated to the same national association as that of his current club for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or of 36 months.
17.12 If a club has fewer than eight locally trained players in its squad (i.e. in places 18 to 25 on List A), then the maximum number of players on List a is reduced accordingly. Furthermore, if a club lists a player in places 18 to 25 on List a who does not fulfil the conditions set out in this article, that player is not eligible to participate for the club in the UEFA club competition(s) in question and the club is unable to replace him on List A."
I Scope and application of Article 81(1) (2) EC (3)
Article 81(1) reads:
"The following shall be prohibited as incompatible with the common market: all agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices which may affect trade between Member States and which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the common market, and in particular those which:
a directly or indirectly fix purchase or selling prices or any other trading conditions;
b limit or control production, markets, technical development, or investment;
c share markets or sources of supply;
d apply dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage;
e make the conclusion of contracts subject to acceptance by the other parties of supplementary obligations which, by their nature or according to commercial usage, have no connection with the subject of such contracts. …