Restrictions on the employment of sportsmen and women may be justified, even
when these infringe EU employment legislation, the European Court of First
Instance has ruled.
But this only applies to non-economic circumstances, where the concern is
limited to sport – such as avoiding unfairness in competitions.
The court was commenting on a disputed rule in Belgium’s basketball league,
which since February has prevented clubs fielding foreign players who have
played in other European countries.
It also ruled that the restriction "constituted an obstacle to the freedom
of movement for workers" under EU employment law, but left the final
decision on the case to the Belgian courts.
In another recent case involving sport in Belgium – in this case judo – the
court decided that taking part in amateur competitions could be considered an
Therefore, a refusal by a sporting body to ban the entry of a sportsman or
woman to a competition could be considered a breach of EU employment law.
The court again ruled, however, that special sporting considerations could
be taken into account to overrule EU employment rights.