The increasing commercialisation of sport raises important questions concerning regulation. The development of the European Union (EU) and the internationalization of sporting competition have added an international dimension to this debate. Yet sport is not only a business, it is a social and cultural activity. Can regulation at the EU level reconcile this tension? Adopting a distinctive legal and political analysis, this book argues that the EU is receptive to the claim of sport for special treatment before the law. It investigates the birth of EU sports law and policy by examining the impact of the Bosman ruling and other important European Court of Justice decisions, the relationship between sport and EU competition law, focusing particularly on the broadcasting of sport, the organization of sport and the international transfer system, and the relationship between sport and the EU Treaty, focusing in particular on the impact of the Amsterdam and Nice declarations on sport and the significance of the Helsinki report on sport. This text raises questions concerning the appropriate theoretical tools for analysing European integration.
seen the birth of a discrete area of
sports law operating within the context of a more holistic EU sports policy.
EU sports law and policy
The Bosmanruling was a turning point for sport. It led to the creation of the
sports policy subsystem. Actors unhappy at the economic Single Market
approach the ECJ adopted in relation to sport, co-ordinated their activity to
seek greater protection for sport from the application of EU law. As each
coalition possessed the ability to undermine each other other’s deep and
policy core belief systems, coalition mediation took place
synonymous with a ‘country’. The main
exception is the United Kingdom, which (for historical reasons) is
divided between the four Associations of England, Scotland, Wales
and Northern Ireland).
Misunderstandings on these two consequences of the Bosmanruling abound, even in academic publications.6 As Stephen Weatherill
Ranc, Foreign Players and Football Supporters.indd 1
Foreign players and football supporters
has argued, both international transfers within the EU and transfers
between clubs of the same Member State are affected by Bosman.7
games was, at best, mediocre? Consequently,
how do these supporters relate to their club and through which
means do they identify with it? In recent years, what has been the
evolution of the supporters’ relations with their club? Did the Bosmanruling and the subsequent change in rules regarding foreign players
affect their relationship with their club?
Building up partisanship
Founding a major club in a hostile context
The very history of the club until the Bosmanruling is of particular
relevance to this study. It can be analysed as an attempt to build
a club with
Football Club, starting with its history until the
Bosmanruling and the development of a perceived English identity.
A North London identity and marketing considerations
For most of its history Arsenal has been a North London club,2 where
it has developed a strong local following and identity. Originally
founded in Woolwich (Kent) as the Royal Arsenal in 1886, it moved
to Highbury in 1913.3 The decision to relocate more than 10 miles
away from its original headquarters was overtly guided by the wish
to benefit from ‘a greater supporter base’,4 which could be found in a
should be included as an area of formal competence in the Treaty.
The Bosman setback 1995–1997
The 1995 Bosmanruling represented a set back for many socio-cultural
actors despite the Larive report’s desire to see the lifting of restrictions placed
on the movement of sportsmen and women. Bosman confirmed the predominance of the EU’s market-based definition of sport at the expense of the
social definition. In short, the Bosman approach was inconsistent with the
Reconciling sport and law
The Pack report on the Role of the European Union in the
the 1995 Bosmanruling, they even
seem to have accepted the fact that many Celtic and Rangers players
could be foreign as well, and thus completely alien to the Glasgow
traditions, the very reasons for the rivalry that is contained in the Old
Firm. Yet, the intensity of the support both communities each give to
their team seems not to have decreased.
The opposition between Rangers and Celtic therefore provides
a particularly salient case to study how the introduction of players
deemed ‘strangers’ to a club’s identity affects its support – the main
reason why the
players resulting from the
Bosmanruling. The two other case studies build on the results of the
Glaswegian study to focus on the effect of the Bosmanruling in widely
In order to provide a solid basis for comparison, all three cases
have been studied over the same length of time: the first ten years (or
more precisely, full football seasons) following the introduction or
multiplication in the number of ‘strangers’ (Catholics or foreigners).
Rangers changed its policy in 1989 so the period studied in the case
of Glasgow is 1989–2000. Semi
of the ‘imagined communities’ of supporters, as it has a
major part in creating the collective memory of a club.
Three main sets of findings can be derived from the case studies.
They show without any ambiguity that the influx of foreign players
following the Bosmanruling has not fundamentally altered supporters’
capacity to identify with their club. The role of the press in this
process needs to be reassessed in the light of the reaction that the
printed media have gathered from the supporters. The processes
through which emblems and people have come to symbolise
Bosmanruling by the European Commission (EC) in 1995. These will be discussed later in this chapter. At this juncture, it is sufficient to say that, combined, these developments, particularly where they intersected with favourable immigration policies in a range of European countries, effectively lessened barriers in terms of accessing and pursuing a career in European football and contributed to a further surge in the number of African players making the move northwards. Indeed, at the turn of the new millennium, the number of African migrant footballers across all