Research Handbook of Employment Relations in Sport
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Research Handbook of Employment Relations in Sport

Edited by Michael Barry, James Skinner and Terry Engelberg

Employment relations, much discussed in other industries, has often been neglected in professional sports despite its unique characteristics. The book aims to explore in detail the unique nature of the employment relationship in professional sports and the sport industry.
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Chapter 17: Playing quotas

Simon Gardiner and Roger Welch


Professional sport is subject to complex patterns of migration. These shift over a period of time, with different sports in specific countries importing playing talent from a variety of countries and regions. As greater distinctions have emerged between the commercial value of markets in a range of sports between countries, sporting rules providing player quotas based on nationality have emerged as a ‘protectionist’ mechanism to restrict supply and demand of players. These are of course in addition to legal rules that restrict immigration on the basis of nationality through visa requirements. Historically, UEFA’s (the Union of European Football Associations) 3+2 rule, which operated in the early 1990s, provided a good example of the imposition of a player quota system in professional football. This rule restricted the number of foreign players, that is, players who were not nationals of the domestic leagues in which they played, who could be included on a team-sheet in a UEFA competition to three. An additional two foreign players could be included if they had played in a country for an uninterrupted period of five years. Such players were deemed to be assimilated into the relevant domestic league.

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