Italian football in firing line over contract rules

By Will Wilson
Italian football fans

Italian football fans (Photo: flickr/pokpok313)

Italian football’s rules on players’ contracts are the latest to be scrutinised as part of the ongoing fallout from the Bosman case, still affecting European football fifteen years later.

Bosman led to a total re-think of the transfer system — hence the ‘Bosman’ free transfer — but also altered the relationship between players and clubs, giving players much more power. This, along with an increase in television revenue, probably accounts for much of the massive surge in European footballers’ earnings since 1995.

But the other effect it has had is the realisation that European law can change football: and Italy could be next in the firing line.

The Italian Football Federation rules provide that both ‘amateur’ footballers, and ‘young league players’ can be ‘tied’ to certain clubs, ensuring that they cannot leave until they reach a certain age — this is up to 25 years old for amateurs, and 19 years old for young league players.

The FIGC seems to be the only federation in the European Union to have such strict rules for amateur players, though there are a few other examples of young payers being tied to clubs.

The legal problems is that the footballers are obliged — with no choice in the matter — to stay with names teams, up to the ages specified, which limits free movement — a right which should be guaranteed under EU law.

Members of the European Parliament from Italy have questioned whether or not the football rules comply with EU law, and the European Commission is preparing a response.

This is not the first example this year of sporting rules being questioned about compatibility with European law, and it will not be the last.

The Bosman ruling was not a one-off. It is simply a matter of time before European judges step in again to alter the way that sport as we know it is governed — and when it comes, it is unlikely to be restricted to a few amateur footballers in Italy.

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