Player power continues to grow in European team sports, especially at the top end of the football market. Incredibly, almost 25 years after the Bosman judgment, which established free agency for players at the end of their contracts, no satisfactory regulatory solution has been found to create a genuinely open market for players, maintain true contractual stability and effective talent distribution.
Increasingly, European sports, fearful of a small number of global superclubs dominating the sporting and commercial landscape, are looking to American sports structures for inspiration as to how to maintain competitive balance, promote uncertainty of outcome and preserve stable player relations.
It is interesting, therefore, to see the Major League Baseball Players Association looking to kick start mid-term economic bargaining for the first time in its 53 year history as a result of historically low free agent signing activity.
The structured Collective Bargaining Agreement in baseball faciltates early re-negotiations which can be asked for by the Union or management. It is a model that is more responsive to the overall economic and player movement trends within the sport and allows all elements of the league/club and player relations to be on table simultaneously. Many administrators in Europe will be watching the outcome of this particular negotiation with added interest as they look to evolve their existing regulatory frameworks and come up with a solution to the narrowing competitiveness of their sports.
The Major League Baseball Players Association’s desire to a return of “meaningful free agency”, improved player marketing, and an end to service time manipulation for rookie players has helped to prompt the union to pursue the first round of mid-term economic bargaining in its 53-year history.