Comment on a proposed social dialogue solution for football within the EU

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Football in the EU suffers from too many levels of legal regulation, argues a research fellow from the Asser International Sports Law Centre. His view is that a social dialogue bringing together clubs and players throughout the EU is one solution.

The EU football sector suffers from a multi-regulatory framework. The main actors in the football sector (clubs, players, associations) find themselves in a “legal jungle”. This legal jungle is the direct result of the Hierarchy of Laws. National law needs to be in accordance with EU laws and regulations, and the “lowest” legal framework are regulations drawn up by associations. 

With the publication of the new FIFA regulations on the status and transfers of players it has become even more clear: the regulations state that national law or national collective bargaining agreements need to be respected. The question arises: what is the status of the FIFA regulations? There is a lack of a clear and strong legal foundation for the application of the FIFA regulations concerning the status and transfer of players.  

A solution for the sector could be the EU Social Dialogue. The EU Social Dialogue can serve as a basis for a transfer system comparable to the current FIFA system, drawn up by Social Partners (players and clubs EU-wide) within the framework of the EU-Treaty. The EU Social Dialogue can be found in the Treaty articles 137-139. The EU Social Dialogue can be introduced in the sector, just as it has been introduced in more than 25 other economic sectors such as aviation, agriculture, fisheries, etc.

By using the EU Social Dialogue the football sector can (finally) come to formal and binding agreements on e.g.: the use of fixed term contracts (current transfer fees system); the duration of contracts; agent regulations; post-career education; pension funds; training compensation; protection of minors; etc. The first steps have been taken by the relevant authorities in football: players and clubs being the workers and the employers.

Roberto Branco Martins is a research fellow on the EU and sport for the Asser International Sports Law Centre.

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