Limiting the number of foreign players in football clubs

Can the football authorities limit the amount of foreign players playing for specific clubs in specific football competitions?

Bosman and the Free Movement of Workers

The first time the issue of the free movement of footballers within the European Union was thrust into the courts was during the Bosman case. Following the decision of the European Court of Justice in this case out of contract footballers are able to move between clubs in the European Union without the requirement of a transfer fee being paid.

Abolition of Quotas

Another issue to learn from the Bosman case was that it abolished quota rules regarding the number of foreign players playing for football clubs in European competition that were currently in existence – it was felt that these were in direct conflict of the free movement of workers – Article 39 of the EC Treaty.

Football not free from European Law Challenge

One of the key things to note from the Bosman case is that the football authorities are not exempt from European Law challenge when the fundamental freedoms which are guaranteed by the European Union are compromised.

Would a limit on the amount of foreign players able to play for a club constitute an infringement of Article 39?

If for example the Premier League was to state that clubs could only play matches with a specific number of players from outside that country in the team this would fall foul of Article 39 as it is a direct infringement as seen in the Bosman case.

It is with some surprise however to learn that the European Governing Body of football – UEFA already has rules in existence ensuring that clubs must have a certain quota of home grown players. Furthermore the Football Association Premier League will be adopting similar rules for the start of the 2010/11 season.

What are the current UEFA Rules?

The current UEFA rules state that the 25 man squad submitted by each club playing in the UEFA Champions League must have at least 8 locally trained players named in it.

What is meant by a locally trained player?

A locally trained player can either be club trained or association trained for the purposes of the UEFA rule.

What is the difference between a club trained player or an association trained player?

In order for a player to be viewed as a locally trained player he must have been trained in that country for a specific time period between a certain age. A player could either have been trained at one specific club and he will then be regarded as a club trained player. If the player has been trained at different clubs in that country during that time period then he will be regarded as an association trained player as the two clubs will be affiliated to the same association.

At what age and for how long must a player be trained to be considered a locally trained player?

The player must have been registered at that club or different clubs affiliated to the same association for a period of three full football seasons, or 36 months between the age of 15 and 21.

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For more information on:

  • Does this apply regardless of nationality?
  • What are the rules which will be adopted by the FA Premier League?
  • Are these home grown player rules likely to fall foul of Article 39 of the EC Treaty?
  • Is there likely to be any future laws in relation to the amount of foreign players in football teams?
  • Would this be a desirable position for football clubs?
  • Would this proposal be open to legal challenge?