Sports lawyers confer on Bosman

FOOTBALL lawyers are set to examine the future of players' contracts and transfers following the European Advocate-General's decision in the case of Belgian Jean-Marc Bosman.

The implications of the Bosman opinion last week will be on the agenda at the next meeting of the Premier League legal working party.

Authorities also believe big clubs will independently consider adjusting their contractual arrangements in case the Advocate General's decision is ratified by the European Court of Justice.

Last week, Advocate General Carl Otto Lenz recommended that under article 48 of the EU Treaty it should be made illegal for:clubs to demand or receive payment for a player whose contract has expired – currently standard practice among professional clubs; governing bodies to restrict the number of foreign players allowed to compete in certain contests – a rule in European contests.

At the moment clubs can block the transfer of a player who is out of contract, because they “own” his registration as a player. Bosman successfully objected to one of his clubs refusing to sanction a transfer.

Football lawyers point out that the ruling only affects out-of-contract players, so there will be no “demise” of the transfer system.

Maurice Watkins, lawyer for Manchester United, partner with James Chapman & Co, and member of the legal working party, said the group would discuss the ruling at its next meeting.

Sources believe the decision will lead to clubs seeking longer contracts to prevent players coming on to the market. Highly-rated footballers will seek short contracts to maintain their mobility and earning potential.

Ian Mason, solicitor in the sports unit of Travers Smith Braithwaite, said: “It is going to make players' contracts more sophisticated.” Clubs may, for instance, seek to include a renewal option in the contract.

He added: “Clubs have got about six months to decide what they are going to do. They should be considering both existing and future contracts.”

Richard Glynn, partner in the sports law group at Nicholson Graham & Jones, said: “This will make the job more exciting and open up lots of avenues for lawyers. There will be a lot of scope for creative legal work to secure the best revenue stream for either player or the club.”