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The Renovated System

The Court in Bosman accepted that the transfer system pursued legitimate object- ives,54 but that the transfer system of which Bosman had fallen foul went too far,

54 Bosman (n 1) especially para 106 of the judgment.

most obviously in its restraining effect even on players whose contracts had expired. The system was the subject of a thorough renovation. The process was naturally complex as the competing interests of freedom of choice for players, retention of contractual stability as an element in team-building and planning, and the concern to use fees for sold players as inducements to invest in youth training were played out in negotiation involving several actors.55 The characteristic obstinacy of sports governing bodies remained evident and familiar shrieks of doom and dismay about the very idea of change were expressed from within the game. 56 Disagreement between UEFA and FIFA caused further wobbles in the process.57 Moreover, the remarkable skill of sport in enlisting the support of prominent politicians was evident: Chancellor Schroder of Germany and Tony Blair, the UK Prime Minister, issued a Press Release in September 2000 expressing concern about the effects of reform and urging that the ‘special situation that exists in professional soccer’ be taken into account.58

The institutional arrangements established under the EU’s founding Treaties mean that the Commission should, as an institution charged to ensure the application of the Treaties, stand above thinly reasoned political grandstanding of this type.59 But this was the febrile environment within which the Commission became involved in the process. Troubled by the sluggish pace of reform post-Bosman, it sent a statement of objections to FIFA in December 1998. Plainly it had no power to direct the adoption of a particular model, rather, as a matter of form, it could only warn against the consequences of adopting a model which in its view would offend against EU law. In practice, this allowed it significant influence.

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