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FIFA faces Bosman-style challenge to transfer window

ESPN staff
September 24, 2013
Fifa could be facing up to the biggest upheaval to the transfer process since the 1995 Bosman ruling © AP

English footballer Joe Yoffe is considering taking FIFA to court to contest the restraint on player movement within Europe outside of the transfer windows.

The 26-year-old will be without a club from October, when his contract with Icelandic side UMF Selfoss expires.

Under the current legislation, Yoffe cannot join another club in Europe until the transfer window reopens in January.

"A couple of lawyers have already said they'd like to take the case," Yoffe told the BBC.

"I don't think it's FIFA's idea to obstruct any player. They have the rules in place for what they see as perfect sense, but there is a grey area. It is quite messy."

What was the Bosman ruling?

  • When Jean-Marc Bosman took his bid to move from Club de Liege to Dunkerque to court, the case inadvertently changed the law on transfers that altered the face of football forever.
  • Before Bosman's legal challenge in the European Court of Justice, a player could not leave unless his club agreed to let him go. That all changed on December 15, 1995, when the court ruled that players should be free to move when their contracts had expired.
  • It also ruled that EU clubs could hire any number of European players, ending the days of UEFA's three-plus-two rule that restricted the number of foreign players that could represent club sides in Europe and sparking the influx of foreign talent to the continent's dominant leagues, notably the Premier League.
  • The Bosman ruling also shifted the power from the clubs to the players, leading to an explosion in player wages and signing-on fees.
  • Ironically, Bosman saw little benefit himself. He opened the case in 1990 at the age of 25 and at the height of his career. By the time it was settled five years later, he was picked up by Belgian third-division side Vise, leaving a year later as he could not live off the money he was making.

Manchester-born Yoffe started his professional career at Stockport County, then of the Championship, before embarking on a journeyman career that has seen him play in the United States, Canada, Spain, Republic of Ireland, Australia and now Iceland.

If Yoffe presses ahead with legal action, he could spark a sea change to the transfer market to rival the 'Bosman ruling' introduced in 1995.

"It is something I feel strongly about," said Yoffe, who is not alone in calling for a change to the transfer structure in Europe.

"Some [players] I know are signing shorter deals which means their contract expires before the window closes. It protects them and they don't have to go four months without a club. It's not just for me. I want to help others in the same situation.

"A player's career is so short anyway that, when you come to the end of a contract, you'd like to be in the shop window to progress forward as soon as possible after that.

"Having to wait for several months is denying players a right to impress, a right to move forward and a right to earn a living."

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