The European Union’s top court should overturn European football rules that require clubs to keep spots for nationally trained players, a legal adviser to the Court of Justice said Wednesday.
If Advocate General Maciej Szpunar’s recommendations are followed, European clubs may have to change how they recruit young players.
UEFA — which organizes the Champions League football competition — requires clubs to have at least eight so-called homegrown players on their roster for every game and four trained by their current club. National leagues have similar rules. The players need to have trained in the same national league for at least three years between the ages of 15 and 21.
Szpunar said judges should side with Royal Antwerp in a Belgian legal dispute over whether the so-called homegrown player rule unfairly restricts clubs’ ability to recruit players and infringes the EU’s freedom of movement rights.
The requirements can “indirectly discriminate against players from other member states” since most players are young and may be still living at home, Szpunar said in his opinion.
The current rules aren’t coherent in defining a homegrown player, he said, since they currently include players trained by the club and trained by other clubs in the same country.
“If a club in a major national league can ‘buy’ up to half of homegrown players, the objective of encouraging that club to train young players would be frustrated,” Szpunar said. “Homegrown players should not include players emanating from other clubs than the club in question.”
While the advocate general’s opinion isn’t binding, it is often followed by judges in their ruling. They give guidance on points of EU law to a national court which makes final decisions on the case.
In a statement, UEFA said it “takes note of the Advocate General’s recommendation to improve the effectiveness of the existing rules in place.”
In a statement, Royal Antwerp’s laywers said they welcomed “the rigour of the First Advocate General’s analysis, which recalls the fundamentals of EU law, in a salutary exercise of orthodoxy, and their full and complete application to multinationals such as UEFA.”
EU court decisions can have a huge effect on football with the game-changing 1995 Bosman ruling allowing players in the EU to move to another club at the end of a contract without a transfer fee. The Court of Justice is currently weighing how far football governing bodies can go to prevent clubs from forming a breakaway Super League.
The case is C-680/21 Royal Antwerp Football Club.