What is a Bosman Transfer and who was Jean-Marc Bosman?

You may hear football pundits use the phrase “Bosman Transfer” when talking about player moves. While it is a term that is used often, you may not realise what Bosman Transfer means or where the term comes from.

A Bosman Transfer is the same thing as a free transfer but gets its name from the man that helped bring freedom of movement to football. In 1995, Belgian midfielder Jean-Marc Bosman helped changed the face of football. His challenge to traditional rules made footballers even more money.

What did Jean-Marc Bosman do?

In 1990, Bosman was a 25-year-old footballer nearing the end of his contract with Belgian side RFC Liege. His two-year stint at the club had not gone well and the Belgian midfielder was offered an improved contract by French second division club Dunkirk.

At the time, a player that was out of contract was still at the mercy of his former club. Before 1995, a player out of contract still needed his new club to pay a transfer fee to the old team to pry him free. This existed even when players were out of contract. The system made players servants to clubs and prevented any free movement from occurring.

Liege demanded a transfer fee from Dunkirk, but the French team could not meet the financial demands. Bosman was left with no choice but to sign a new contract with Liege. Problem was that Liege controlled everything to do with Bosman and the new contract offered was worth 75% less than the previous deal. Not only was Bosman denied the chance to move to another club for more money, but the team he was forced to remain with cut his wages.

What was the result of Bosman’s court battle?

For the next five year, Bosman battled the Belgian FA, RFC Liege and UEFA in court. In 1995, he finally won. Unfortunately, Bosman didn’t see the lucrative wages thousands of players did after the court ruled in his favour.

Not long after the ruling, Bosman’s career fizzled out. In retirement, Bosman turned to drink and experienced long bouts of depression.

In comparison, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and David Beckham enjoyed large contracts worth millions of pounds. The ruling in Bosman’s case ensured that clubs couldn’t monopolise players and they could go on to the free market to get the best contract possible.

Reports in 2015 indicated that Bosman was out of work and relied on payments from FIFPro to live on.

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