UEFA home-grown rules partially incompatible with EU rules, EU court adviser says

UEFA home-grown rules partially incompatible with EU rules, EU court adviser says

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -UEFA's home-grown rules setting a quota of locally trained players at clubs are partially incompatible with EU rules, an adviser to Europe's top court said on Thursday in a dispute between European soccer's governing body and two Belgian clubs.

UEFA's home-grown player rules, which date back to the 2008/2009 season, set a quota of locally trained players at clubs but without any discrimination on nationality.

Royal Antwerp had argued that the rules hamper a professional club from recruiting and fielding players who do not meet the requirement of local or national roots.

It said the rules also reduce the chances for some players to be recruited and fielded in a match.

Royal Antwerp took its grievance about UEFA and Belgian soccer governing body URBSFA, which has similar rules, to a Belgian court which subsequently sought advice from the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (CJEU).

CJEU Advocate General Maciej Szpunar said that while the recruitment and training of young players must be accepted as legitimate, he had doubts about the general coherence of the contested provisions regarding the definition of a home-grown player.

"Systems in which home-grown players include not only those trained by the club at issue, but also those of other clubs in the same national league, are not compatible with free movement rules," he wrote in an opinion.

"The contested provisions are not coherent and therefore not suitable for achieving the objective of training young players: home-grown players should not include players emanating from other clubs than the club in question."

Judges, who follow four out of five such recommendations, will rule in the coming months.

UEFA said it took note of Szpunar's recommendations "to improve the effectiveness of the existing rules" and looked forward to the CJEU's judgement.

"In the meantime, (we) will continue to focus on our central mission to nurture the European football pyramid based on open exciting competitions, robust solidarity mechanisms, sporting merit and a world-leading youth system," it said.

"We will do so in close cooperation with national associations, leagues, clubs, players, fans and public authorities."

The case is Case C-680/21 Royal Antwerp Football Club.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, additional reporting by Rohith Nair; Editing by Nick Macfie and Ken Ferris)