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Football clubs eligible for compensation, EU Court rules

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The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that football clubs who have trained and prepared young players may seek compensation if that player wishes to sign their first contract with a different club within the European Union.

The ruling concludes a legal battle between French club Olympique Lyonnais (OL) and former player Olivier Bernard. In 1997 OL filed suit against Bernard for having breached the terms of his contract as ‘joueur espoir’ of three seasons, by leaving to play for the British Newcastle United team, breaching the terms of his contractual obligations.

In its ruling the ECJ noted that football transfers constitute economic activity and are therefore subject to EU law. In the first instance the ECJ found that the measures adopted to sign a professional contract with the club which trained him are likely to discourage that player from exercising his right of free movement within the EU. Consequently, those rules are a restriction on freedom of movement for workers.

However, in light of the 'social importance' of the game, the ECJ ruled in favour of OL, conceding that the objective of encouraging the recruitment and training of young players must be accepted as legitimate.

With regard to compensation, the ECJ ruled in favour of  Olympique Lyonnais, recognising the club's demand for compensation as legitimate. The compensation in question, EUR 53,357.16, would be payment to the club which provided the training, not in compensation for training, but of damages, to which the player concerned would be liable for breach of his contractual obligations and the amount of which was unrelated to the real training costs incurred by the club.

Background

Before the "joueur espoir" contract was due to expire, Olympique Lyonnais offered him a professional contract for one year, which Mr Bernard refused to sign and instead signed a professional contract with Newcastle United FC, an English football club.

Subsequently Olympique Lyonnais sued Mr Bernard, seeking an award of damages against him and Newcastle United of € 53 357.16, equivalent to the salary which Mr Bernard would have received over one year if he had signed the contract offered by Olympique Lyonnais

Europan Court of Justice - Justice and Application-  Full Text


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