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The European Court of Justice has issued a ruling in the Olivier Bernard case with important consequences for the compensation to be paid to clubs for the training of young players. National football rules whereby the compensation claimed can exceed the actual training costs can no longer be enforced following the ruling.


Until 2000, Olivier Bernard played for Olympique Lyon under a youth contract. The 20-year-old defender then signed his first professional contract with Newcastle United. However, under the French system he should have done this with the club which had trained him, Olympique Lyon.


Since then, the case has been fodder for legal experts. On 16th March, the European Court of Justice issued its final verdict on the matter which has far-ranging consequences for the compensation scheme applicable to young players who change clubs.


Although the Court was of the opinion that the French rules were in conflict with the principle of the free movement of workers, the Court ruled that they were nevertheless legitimate due to the higher aim, namely: the protection of professional football clubs’ youth training systems.


However, the Court also ruled that the compensation claimed by Lyon (the full salary under the contract offered by the club) is not appropriate. The compensation to be paid must remain limited to the training costs which the club has invested.


FIFPro’s lawyer Wil van Megen: ‘This ruling has important consequences for countries – not just France but also England for example – in which a system is employed which allows the compensation to exceed the training costs. Such systems can no longer be maintained.’


‘With this ruling, the Court has once again shown that sport falls under the scope of European law. The Court does not agree with the demand of international organisations such as the IOC, FIFA and UEFA to make sport an exceptional case in order to be able to better regulate it. FIFPro is in full agreement with the position of the Court.’


Click here for Wil van Megen’s full analysis of the European Court of Justice’s verdict in the Olivier Bernard case.