Skip to main content

‘Brain drain’ and Bosman rule stop England winning World Cup

England’s World Cup woes are due to reverse ‘brain drain’ and the Bosman rule, according to an economist at the University of Warwick.

If the ruling had not been introduced, economist Chrysovalantis Vasilakis claims England would have made it through to the 2006 World Cup final.

Dr Vasilakis, who also holds a position at Bangor Business School, has analysed data on European male football leagues to explore the effect of the 1995 Bosman ruling, which allowed out-of-contract players to move more easily to another club.

Dr Vasilakis has focused on the nine World Cup years from 1978 to 2010. He said: “The effect of the mobility of talented workers (the so-called reverse ‘brain drain’) on inequality between nations has attracted a lot of interest in the last couple of decades.

“Football has been so far the most globalised labour market and an increasing number of talented players move every year across countries and continents to join the top European leagues. Consequently the patterns observed in football can provide some insights into the implications of high-skilled migration in general for the global economy.”

He argues the Bosman ruling eased the transfer of players and led to substantial increases in migration flows of football players between countries.

He said: “This meant that players from a wider range of countries were given the opportunity to hone their skills in the top teams in the league. They could then take these skills back to their home teams for the World Cup.

“So this led to more inequality in the European leagues as all the best players would go to the best clubs. But it had the opposite effect on national teams.”

Dr Vasilakis said England was not the only country to lose out under this ruling. Other teams include Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Romania. Countries who have benefitted from the Bosman include Greece, France, Portugal and Turkey.

Notes to editors
Globalized Market for Talents and Inequality: What Can Be Learnt From European Football is available at

To speak to Dr Vasilakis, please contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Senior Press and Communications Manager, University of Warwick,, 02476 150868, 07824 540863

Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Senior Press and Communications Manager,, 02476 150868, 07931 557834

The paper: Globalized Market for Talents and Inequality: What Can Be Learnt from European Football?

Department of Economics