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Eventual agreement

The negotiation of an adjusted transfer system acceptable to the governing bodies and to the Commission was successfully concluded in March 2001, when the Commission declared it had formalized the matter in an exchange of letters between Mr Monti, the Commissioner for Competition, and Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] In fact it was only later in 2001 that FIFPro, the players’ union, was finally persuaded to add its support to the deal. Pending litigation was then settled and brought to an end, both in the context of proceedings initiated at national level[7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] and in actions challenging the Commission’s failure to investigate complaints about the transfer system.62 The Commission announced closure of its own investigation in June 2002, on the basis that all interested parties had expressed satisfaction with it, and presenting it as striking a balance between players’ free movement rights and contractual stability.63

Part of the background was certainly that the Commission had wearied of its attritional battle with politically savvy governing bodies. It was reluctant to invest further resources in probing the compatibility of the renovated system with EU law. It had, however, plainly extracted some movement towards change within the lex sportiva. The story is accurately understood as revealing a more horizontal process of cooperation than would be captured by a conventional depiction of the Commission standing above governing bodies and demanding their conformity with EU law. The process has more nuance.64 It is only a slight exaggeration, justified to emphasize the significance of the shift, to describe the Commission as able to act with sports bodies as a ‘co-producer’ of norms in the shadow of EU competition law.65 The renovation of the transfer system was one of the most notable early instances in the development of EU sports law whereby governing bodies were induced ultimately to work with the Commission, rather than seeking to keep it at arm’s length.66

Moreover, given the need for a globally applicable lex sportiva apt to secure the integrity of the sport there could be no question of an adapted system applicable only within Europe, still less within the EU. The transfer system required worldwide alteration, and this is what occurred. The EU exports its norms. A rich literature explores how the EU’s rule-making energy is globally influential^7 the story of football’s transfer system shows how this occurs also in the shadow of the EU’s negative agenda-setting capacity, exercised by application of the prohibitions of internal market law.

The system finally agreed in 2002 has been gently adapted since. The key source today is the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players.[14] [15]

The Regulations provide for the registration of players. This is a requirement for a player to appear in an official match. A player may be registered with only one club at a time69 and limits are placed on the number of clubs a player may play for in a single season, in order to protect ‘the sporting integrity of the competition’.70 Registration periods—otherwise known as ‘transfer windows’—are dealt with explicitly in Article 6 of the Regulations.

The registration system is the starting point in grasping how footballers are different from normal employees. Applying sanctions to clubs that play unregistered players is the means to ensure that the Regulations’ special rules channelling the way players may change their employer are respected.

  • [1] On the interplay of actors and ideas in crafting a new system, see D Dimitrakopoulos, ‘MoreThan a market? The Regulation of Sport in the EU’ (2006) 41 Government and Opposition 561. Seealso G Pearson, ‘Sporting Justifications under EU Free Movement and Competition Law: The Case ofthe Football Transfer System’ (2015) 21 ELJ 220, 223—26.
  • [2] 56 eg ‘Chaos Ahead in a World Without Transfers: The Chairman of Leeds Utd Says WholeCommunities Could Suffer if an EU Proposal were to Succeed’ The Independent on Sunday (London,20 August 2000) Sports section, 5.
  • [3] eg ‘Uefa Widens Rift with Fifa Over Transfers’ The Independent (London, 16 January 2001) 26.See J Irving, ‘Red Card: The Battle over European Football’s Transfer System’ (2001—02) 56 Universityof Miami Law Review 667, 693—709.
  • [4] Press Release No 425/00 of the German Government, 10 September 2000.
  • [5] TEU, Art 17. The same independence from direct political accountability is guaranteed to theCourt by TEU, Art 19.
  • [6] IP/01/314, 5 March 2001. On this legally imprecise notion, see sect 9.10.
  • [7] Most strikingly Case C-264/98 Tibor Balog v Royal Charleroi Sporting Club, in which the reference was withdrawn by the referring (Belgian) court the day before AG Stix-Hackl was due to deliverher Opinion: its hearing was ‘cancelled’, according to Court Press Release No 11/2001, 29 March2001. It is widely assumed that A Egger and C Stix-Hackl, ‘Sports and Competition Law: A Never-Ending Story?’ [2002] ECLR 81 is that lost opinion.
  • [8] CaseT-42/01 SETCA-FGTB v Commission, removed from the Register by Order of 24 January2002 [2001] OJ C118.
  • [9] IP/02/824, 5 June 2002. See M Bennett, ‘They Think It’s All Over ... It is Now!—How ExtraTime was Required to Finally Settle Football’s Transfer Saga’ (2001) 9 Sport and the Law Journal 180;S Van den Bogaert, Practical Regulation of the Mobility of Sportsmen in the EU post Bosman (Kluwer2005) ch V; B Dabscheck, ‘International Unionism’s Competitive Edge: FIFPro and the EuropeanTreaty’ (2003) 58 Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations 85; Irving (n 57).
  • [10] 64 See especially A Duval, ‘The FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players: TransnationalLaw-Making in the Shadow of Bosman’ in A Duval and B Van Rompuy (eds), The Legacy ofBosman: Revisiting the Relationship between EU Law and Sport (TMC Asser/Springer 2016) ch 5.
  • [11] A Duval, ‘La Lex Sportiva Face au Droit de l’Union Europeenne: Guerre et Paix dans l’EspaceJuridique Transnational’ (DPhil thesis, EUI Florence 2015), available via accessed 29 November 2016, especially at 245—56.
  • [12] B Garcia, ‘UEFA and the European Union: From Confrontation to Co-Operation’ (2007)3 JCER 202; 208—13 deal in particular with the matter of transfers. See also Duval (n 64); Pearson(n 55) 223-26.
  • [13] eg A Young, ‘The European Union as a Global Regulator? Context and Comparison’ (2015) 22JEPP 1233.
  • [14] The governing texts of the FIFA Regulations are at accessed 29 November 2016. The current version, in force sinceApril 2015, is at accessed 29 November 2016.
  • [15] ibid Art 5(2). 70 ibid Art 5(4). 71 ibid Art 1(3).
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