Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) introduced the home grown player rule at the start of the 2006/07 football season. The rule requires every football team entering European club competitions to name eight ‘home grown’ players in their 25 man squad.
The introduction of the rule forms part of a series of measures, including a Club Licensing System and ‘Financial Fair Play’ regulations, adopted by UEFA in response to the perceived negative consequences of the Bosman judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in which the labour market for players was Europeanised. In particular, UEFA contend that since the Bosman judgment European competitions are less balanced competitively and clubs are neglecting their duties towards training and educating young players. The English Football Association also claim that the allowing large numbers of foreign players to play in the English league has negative consequences for the English national team as the pool of nationally eligible talent decreases. In the 2011 Communication on Sport, the European Commission formally committed itself to review the operation of the UEFA rule in light of concerns expressed that the rule amounted to an unjustified restriction on the free movement of workers (players) contrary to Article 45 of the European Treaty. The Commission asked a consortium, including the Centre for Sports Law Research, to investigate the issue.
Our study revealed that the UEFA rule has resulted in improvements to competitive balance in European club competitions but these improvements are very modest. In addition, and despite increases in the number of home grown players at EU clubs, there is little evidence to suggest that the rule has improved the quality of youth development in European football. The study cast doubt on whether this small benefit outweighed the potentially negative effects on the free movement of players, although the study also found little evidence that players were suffering serious hardship as a result of the rule. The study recommended that rather than adopting a negative position on the rule, the European Commission should extend an invitation to UEFA to consult with key stakeholders, particularly representatives of clubs, leagues and players, on whether alternative measures, that do not carry discriminatory effects, can deliver more substantial benefits for European football.