The Bosman Legacy


Until 1995, players were completely at the mercy of their clubs and shuddered at the thought that their employer might no longer see any use for them when their contracts were up but would refuse to sell them to a competitor, as happened to Bosman. Clubs could jerk even their best players around as they chose. What could they do? Retire. Their indentured servitude robbed all but the very biggest of stars of any leverage in contract negotiations or disputes.

Gradually, players wrested power from their former overlords. First, by walking out after their contracts expired. Then by threatening to walk out when their contracts expired. And today, by threatening not to renew contracts that will expire a year or two down the line.

There is little clubs can do but to accede to their stars’ every wish and pray that they stay.

That, ultimately, is Bosman’s legacy. For better or worse.

Many football fans do not remember transfer business prior to the landmark Bosman ruling in 1995, before which players could not leave the clubs they played for even after their contracts had expired. Leander Schaerlaeckens takes us back to how one Belgian’s struggle changed the landscape once and for all, paving the way for the likes of Michael Ballack (Bayern Munich to Chelsea), Sol Campbell (Tottenham to Arsenal) and Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan to Juventus) to leave for free at the peak of their careers and others such as Robin Van Persie to force moves before their contracts run down.

Readers who are interested in the details of the Bosman ruling and its implications can have a look at this fact sheet available at the website of Football Industry Group.

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