European court ruling on Diarra case could force FIFA rethink of player contract rules

May 1 – Some of FIFA’s rules on player contracts may run contrary to European law, according to an adviser to the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

In a case that could have widespread repercussions, Advocate General Maciej Szpunar, in a non-binding opinion, said some of the rules on player transfers “are of restrictive nature and may only be justified in specific circumstances.”

His view was expressed after former Chelsea and Arsenal midfielder Lassana Diarra challenged the rules governing contractual relations between players and clubs.

Diarra had signed for Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow in 2013 but his contract was terminated a year later for an alleged breach. Lokomotiv then applied to the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber for compensation and the player counter-claimed for unpaid wages.

Diarra sued FIFA and the Royal Belgian Football Association in a Belgian court for damages and €6 million in loss of earnings. He claimed a move to Belgian club Charleroi collapsed because they were worried about having to pay compensation to Lokomotiv under FIFA’s rules. The Belgian court then asked the CJEU for guidance.

Diarra, who made more than 30 appearances for France, later played for Marseille and Paris St Germain before retiring in 2019.

Diarra’s lawyer said a judgment backing the former international would be a milestone in modernising football governance as it would allow players’ unions and clubs’ unions to regulate their employment practices.

“This will put an end to the degrading practice of commoditising players,” lawyers Jean-Louis Dupont and Martin Hissel said in a joint statement.

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