Beyond Bosman: The European Union's Influence upon Professional Athletes' Freedom of Movement

Richard Parrish, David McArdle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review


The purpose of this article is to explain how the law of the European Union (EU) has revolutionized the freedom of professional athletes’ abilities to move from one club to another, and from one EU member state to another, in order to avail themselves of employment opportunities that come their way. The article also provides an assessment of the ongoing endeavours of sports organizations and the EU to forge a new working relationship in the wake of the Bosman ruling. Sports organizations want to establish an arrangement that will protect sport from the full rigours of EU law; but the EU is equally concerned with ensuring that fundamental, immutable principles of EU law are respected by clubs, governing bodies and other sporting organizations. One of the key principles that the EU regards as sacrosanct is the principle of the free movement of workers – the right for people to move from one member state to another in order to work – and it was issue that was at the heart of Belgian Football Association v. Bosman (hereafter ‘Bosman’) ([1996] All ER (EC) 97) Consequently the starting point for this article is the European Court of Justice’s ruling in Bosman, which heralded the demise of two of European football’s sacred cows–the transfer system and the player quota rules– as a consequence of the application of the laws on freedom of movement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-419
JournalSport in Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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