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The topic of money in football is discussed no less enthusiastically than the game itself. Among the various ratings is the "cost" of the national teams. At the European Football Championship in 2021, the national team of England turned out to be the most "expensive", the price of contracts of all players of which exceeded 1 billion euros, and the "cheapest" of all - the national team of Finland, "only" 44.6 million euros.
But even a few decades ago, such contracts were never dreamed of by players.
For example, in 1990, the most expensive transfer was considered the transfer of Roberto Baggio to Juventus, the amount of the transaction then amounted to $ 19 million. Even taking into account inflation, the figure is incomparable with the cost of the most expensive transfer of our days - the transfer of the Brazilian Neymar to PSG for more than 220 million euros.
Such an explosive growth of footballers' patches began relatively recently. The European transfer system that had existed for many years was destroyed by the case of Bossman, a Belgian footballer who never entered the top of world football, but simply decided to fight for decent working conditions.
The footballer is the property of the club
But before turning to the actual Bossman case, let's say a few words about what the transfer system was in European football until the mid-1990s. At first, while the sport was amateur, players could freely move from team to team for at least one day. There were no restrictions until the Football Association (FA), formed in 1863, introduced player registration.
They could still move from club to club, but not when they wanted, but at the end of the season. To do this during the season, a special permit was needed. At the end of the 19th century, clubs began to pay for the transitions of players, or rather, for the registration of a player as a professional. And then the footballer became a kind of property of the club: if the previous team did not agree to the transition, the athlete could not sign a new contract.
As the founders of football, the British were also the founders of the "hold-to-move" transfer system, which also operated in other European countries. And by the way, England was the first to cancel the principle that a player could not change a team without the consent of the previous employer.
This happened in the 1960s, after Newcastle midfielder George Eastham was unable to move to Arsenal - the former club did not want to let him go. In court, he achieved the removal of restrictions on transitions and safely became a player of the Gunners. But the name of Jean-Marc Bossman remained in history, who filed a similar lawsuit 30 years later.
Boseman was born in 1964 in Liege and has been playing football at the local academy since childhood. The young man finished secondary school without any prospects, he did not pass a single exam that would allow him to study further. But Boseman did not need this: he successfully played for the youth national team of Belgium, was even its captain. His career was less rosy in the clubs "Standard", and then "Liege" - mostly Bossman sat on the bench, in "Liege" for 2 years he played only 25 matches.
When his contract expired in 1990, Boseman was invited to France, to the Dunkirk club. The conditions for him were just excellent: they offered a relatively high salary and promised to regularly release on the field at the base. It would seem that there were no obstacles, but, as we remember, Liege had to agree to the player's transfer.For reasons not entirely clear, the Belgians refused to release Bosman and offered a new contract with a noticeable salary cut - by 60%.
The athlete refused, and the club proposed a 75% reduction. The situation developed into a stalemate: Boseman mostly sat on the bench, but they refused to let him go, although the contract expired.
Dunkirk still tried to outbid Bossman, but Liege demanded $ 1.2 million, which was too much. In addition, in France, Bossman was a legionnaire, and in a team, according to the existing rules, no more than three of them could play. It was too much for Dunkirk to buy an average player for a lot of money and to exhaust the quota for foreign athletes by a third, and the club refused the deal. The footballer decided to challenge the legality of such enslaving conditions in court.
Right to work
Experts note that the system of sports transfers that existed in Europe limited the key freedoms: movement, competition in the labor market, and also prevented the full exercise of the right to work. Bossman, along with a young lawyer, Jean-Louis Dupont, filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Liege, then in the Court of Appeal in Liege, and then reached the European Court. Initially, claims were filed against Liege, but then UEFA became the addressee of the claims: Bossman was no longer trying to solve his own problems, but to achieve universal justice.
The lawsuits were considered for five years, and in the end a decision was made: the transfer rules limited the freedom of movement of workers, therefore, they contradicted the 1957 Rome Treaty establishing the EU. Teams were prohibited from claiming compensation for a player whose contract expired, and upon its expiration, he became a free agent. It was also forbidden to restrict players' access to competitions within the EU, that is, they removed the limit on legionnaires. The NFs have tried to challenge this decision, stressing that the existing restrictions maintained a balance between clubs and encouraged them to prepare a reserve for themselves. The court did not accept these arguments.
After the Boseman affair
No one could calculate the consequences of this decision. In fact, the clubs were forced to raise the salaries of the leading players so that they would not leave the team. But they did not understand this immediately, some have lost their stars. For example, in 1995 the Champions League final was won by the Dutch Ajax. A year later, Mikael Reiziger, George Finidi, Clarence Seedorf, Edga Davids, Nwankwo Kanu left the “golden” squad, Mark Overmars and Patrick Kluivert left the club two years later.
The Champions League winner has lost top players. “We immediately tried to renew the contracts with the players, but a number of players chose to leave as free agents. A year later, they were again sold to other teams. Milan were especially zealous, who got Kluivert, Bogard and Reiziger for nothing. Later, the Italians bailed out a lot of money for them,”said Ajax coach Louis van Gaal.
But the rise in patches and massive player transitions were not the only consequences of the Boseman case. It is believed that the value of football club academies has diminished as a result - there is no need to raise young athletes for your team if you can buy players from other countries. The very notion of a national style of play began to fade: what kind of English football can we talk about if in 2005 Arsenal entered the game without a single Englishman in the squad?
But for Boseman himself, who, it would seem, did a good for the entire football world, the process ended badly. His colleagues turned away from him, who considered him a selfish lawyer. Nevertheless, he did not sue any special money, was left homeless, his wife left him. He played out in third-rate clubs, tried to organize matches in his support, produced souvenir T-shirts (only one was sold, it was bought by the lawyer DuPont).
Peel, spent a year in prison, now lives on state benefits. Journalists continue to call Boseman "the man who changed everything."But in reality, it turns out that everything has changed for the football world, and not for the player who wanted to conclude a lucrative contract with the Dunkirk club.