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No, the Other Bosman

Several years ago, I had an idea for a paper that was based on a coincidence. The first case to be litigated under the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (for domain names), and the test case challenging the transfer system for European football players, involved men who shared the same last name. The European Bosman opened the market for football players to free agency and limited the rights of football clubs. The American Bosman was a player in a market for domain names that the UDRP largely closed to free agency, by tilting it heavily in favor of trademark owners.

I never wrote the paper, which is probably just as well. The parallel doesn’t really work.

But I was reminded of the idea this morning. The NY Times carried a notice today about the fate of Jean-Marc Bosman, the little-known Belgian whose attempt to switch football clubs at the end of his contract led to the “Bosman ruling” at the European Court of Justice and to his being remembered, in a way, as the Curt Flood of international soccer:

Friday was the 10th anniversary of a decision by the European Court of Justice that changed the game. Jean-Marc Bosman, a 25-year-old journeyman midfielder with Standard Liège in Belgium, had finished his contract in 1990 and planned to join Dunkirk in France.

Up until that time, European clubs asked for transfer fees when a player’s contract ended. The system was similar to the reserve clause in baseball before courts ruled that players could be free agents and negotiate freely with other teams when their contracts were completed.

Instead of being allowed to transfer, Bosman was offered a new contract by Standard, with a 75 percent cut.

He took the case to court, which meant his playing career basically ended while he waited for the ruling. On Dec. 15, 1995, the Court of Justice ruled that players were free when their contracts expired and that the clubs in European Union countries could sign an unlimited number of players from other E.U. countries.

Bosman’s career never recovered. He is divorced, unemployed and living with his parents in Belgium. He never benefited from the ruling that has made millionaires of players throughout Europe.

Whatever happened to the other Bosman, Michael, the one who registered “”?