Monday, August 8, 2011

The man who changed Football: Jean-Marc Bosman

For many followers of Football, the Bosman ruling is just a term which means that players are allowed to leave for Free at the end of their contracts; but behind this term was the man who revolutionized the way Football has become. The insane wages, the crazy transfer fees, the agents and everything else that involves transfers and players changed thanks to this man.

Jean-Marc Bosman, was a professional player in the Belgian First division for RFC Liege in 1990 and was looking to leave his club and move to French Club Dunkerque as his contract had expired. But using the Belgium’s player-evaluation system at the time, RFC Liege stuck a £500,000 valuation on him and Dunkerque were put off by the deal. Following the fall-through of this transfer, RFC Liege cut Bosman’s salary down by 75% and this was the beginning of the court case which turned into a revolution in the game we love.

For those who aren’t aware, or don’t remember, prior to the Bosman ruling most European clubs could prevent their players from joining other clubs even if their contracts had expired. It sounds crazy to think of such a scenario taking place in the game today. If a player’s contract was finished, he would have to remain at the club until another club came in with a transfer fee to buy him. The club could slash his salary in half, and he would have no say in it and could not leave. Sounds like modern-slavery. It was an unfair and unjust system. The players had no freedom to move as long as they belonged to the club.

Similarly, prior to the popular ruling, the quota of foreign players in each participating team in European competitions was restricted to 3 players. Let me clarify it for you – no team could field more than 3 foreign players (including on the bench). Yes, only 3. Meaning when Manchester United got spanked 4-0 by Barcelona at the Nou Camp during the 1994-1995 campaign, United could only field 3 foreigners while the likes of Schmeichel and Cantona had to look on from the stands as United had to field 8 English players (even if they were from the youth team).  Again, unthinkable in the modern game now.

The Bosman ruling changed all of that.

A five-year court case which ran from 1990 until 1995 ended in Bosman’s favor. It was a victory for Bosman (even though he never made the transfer he desired and ended up playing in the lower leagues in France and Belgium until the end of his career). It was a victory for Footballers in Europe. And it was the start of Football’s mad money. Players could now move for free at the end of their contracts. With 6-months, or less, left on players’ contracts, they could now begin speaking to other clubs and could sign pre-contracts – leaving their originial clubs with nothing. No transfer fee. Player-power was now in the making. The clubs no longer had the strength to tie a player against his will.

Furthermore, there was no longer the quota of “foreign” players on each club as long as they were European. Teams could now fill up their teams with players from all over Europe. This change, coupled with the free movement of players, is when Football’s face began changing. 16 years after the ruling, we now find teams with players from every single corner of the globe and with salaries that make the average working individual look in envy and disgust. Even Bosman could never have imagined the impact his court case would have on World Football.

This story isn’t a cheerful and jolly one. It is an ironic one more than anything else; because while players like Tevez, Rooney, Messi, Ronaldo and other world beaters are taking advantage of the fight that Bosman won all those years ago and are now earning near £200,000/week, Mr Bosman is now living another battle of his own: against alcohol and depression. He now lives off social aid in Belgium and lives on 700 euros a month. His marriage has failed. Even his 15-year old dog recently died. Talk about irony. This is the same man who is to thank for all these big bucks in the game.

He’s been seen in the media recently saying that Footballers should give something back to him because of what he gave to them; a charity match of some sort to thank him for his fight. Like some sort of martyr celebration or something like that. I sympathize with him to some extent but knowing that he made close to £750,000 thanks to his settlement in that court case, one must wonder what he did with all that money.  Not so sure I sympathize that much with him knowing he lost all that cash.

There’s no doubt that if it weren’t for him, Football wouldn’t have been the same today (or maybe someone else would have fought the way he did?). Bosman’s story is an ironic one and is one that seems to be forgotten. With players threatening to use the Bosman ruling to either get a higher pay-cheque or leave on a free (with a higher salary elsewhere), he must wish he was one of the players reaping the rewards of the system he created. But he’s not. He’s become just a name. He’s even become a verb. He’s become a threat. He’s become a hero, but he’s also become an alcoholic and has fallen into depression - and wants the Football community to feel sorry for him - but he seems to forget that his motives to move to Dunkerque were pretty much the same as the majority of Footballers nowadays: he wanted to move for more money. And in the Football business, not the game, there is no pity.  Bosman’s legacy will never be remembered for what he did on the pitch, but only for what he did off it. Regardless of what has become of the man now, he’s already forgotten.


  1. hahahahaha you can get a transfer none loooooool

  2. Never respond to an angry person with a fiery comeback, even if he deserves it...Don't allow his anger to become your anger.