The Final Whistle For International Football?

AuthorDarragh K. Connell
PositionBCL III, UCD
Darragh K Connell*
The 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy was tipped by
pundits to be the greatest contest in international football for years. In
contrast with the action on the field,1 the epic battle for the very existence of
international football itself is still yet to be fought. However, instead of taking
place in one of Germany’s many modern stadiums,2 this historic contest will
be held inside the panelled doors of the European Court of Justice.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is set to rule on whether the
International Football Federation (FIFA)’s rules on the compulsory release of
players for international matches comply with EU legislation on competition
and free movement of workers. This impending ruling stems from a case3
brought against FIFA before the Charleroi Commercial Court in March 2006
by Royal Sporting Charleroi FC and G-14, the representative body of Europe's
18 most powerful football clubs. The Belgian Court rejected G-14’s claim for 1
860 million in damages against FIFA for the costs incurred, over the past ten
years, of putting players at FIFA’s disposal to play in national teams and their
subsequent unavailability if they suffer injury.4 However, as to the question of
the fundamental legality of a number of FIFA’s rules on the compulsory
release of players for international duty the Belgian Court decided to refer the
issue to the European Court of Justice under Article 234 of the EC Treaty.
This article examines the principle issues and possible consequences of
the ECJ’s impending verdict whilst also scrutinizing the impact of previous
ECJ decisions on the ‘beautiful game’. The article will also examine the
evolving interventionist approach that the ECJ is likely to take when faced
with a governing body’s justificatory internal sports regulations in light of a
recent judgment in Meca-Medina and Majcen v Commission.5
In November 2004, Abdelmajid Oulmers was badly injured while
playing in an international friendly match for Morocco against Burkina Faso.
The subsequent legal dispute arose by virtue of the fact that Oulmers was
contracted to the Belgian first division club, Royal Sporting Charleroi FC. The
1 Italy won the final beating France on penalties in an eventful extra time.
2 Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup.
3 Case C-243/06 SA Sporting du Pays de Charleroi, G-14 Groupment des Clubs de Football
Européens v Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) [2006] 49 OJEU C
4 —— ‘ECJ to rule on second landmark case in football’ EurActive <
en/sports/ecj-rule-second-landmark-case-football/article-155382> (29 February 2008).
5 Case C-519/04 Meca-Medina and Majcen v Commission [2006] ECR I–6991.

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