There have been a number of calls in recent months for efforts to be made to increase the number of home-grown players representing football clubs in the English Premier League. One such suggestion has been to introduce a quota system in which there would be a minimum number of English players featuring per team per game. The ultimate aim of the quota system would be to increase the number of home-grown players featuring in the top flight of English football and consequently enhance the fortunes of the national team.

The main obstacles to this quota system are likely to be employment law provisions established by European Union Law.  The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), at Article 45, currently facilitates the freedom of movement of workers within the European Union. The Article, in short, seeks to remove any discrimination based on nationality in relation to workers of the Member States. Football is no exception to this rule; with ‘workers’ in this context encompassing football players.

As long as football falls under the definition of economic activity in EU Law, it is hard to see how any form of quota system could, at present, comply with the wider provisions of the law of the European Union in relation to freedom of movement of workers. Incidentally there was a quota system in force in England up until 1995 which served to limit the number of foreign players turning out for a team in the top flight per game. This system was ruled to be incompatible with EU Law in that it unfairly restricted the movement of workers between Member States. Since 1995 there has been no similar system in place in England and we have witnessed a rapid increase in the number of foreign players featuring in the top tier of English football in recent years.

In previous cases the European Court of Justice has emphasised that although the current situation may prevent home-grown players from breaking into the club teams in their country of origin, there are consequently more opportunities for such players to move between Member States and play in alternative leagues. However, in practice, very few English players move abroad to play in the other top leagues across Europe. This is in stark contrast to the increasing number of Spanish, German, French and Italian players currently plying their trade in the English Premier League.

Here at Farleys we have a dedicated team of sports lawyers working in conjunction with a specialist employment law department. Do not hesitate to contact us today to speak to one of our solicitors who will be able to advise you on any of the legal issues covered in this blog.

By Daniel Draper, Sports Law Solicitor