News16-year-old Yamal's Euro 2024 debut sparks labour law debate

16‑year-old Yamal's Euro 2024 debut sparks labour law debate

Lamine Yamal the youngest player in the history of the Euro
Lamine Yamal the youngest player in the history of the Euro
Images source: © Getty Images | Markus Gilliar - GES Sportfoto
Robert Kędzierski

10 July 2024 14:01

Lamine Yamal, the 16-year-old footballer representing Spain, has become the sensation of Euro 2024. However, his participation in the tournament raises questions about compliance with German labour laws, which strictly regulate the employment of minors. Legal interpretations of the young athlete's situation, however, are contradictory.

Lamine Yamal is the youngest player to participate in the European Football Championship. He debuted in Spain's match against Croatia at just 16 years old, thus taking the title of the youngest Euro participant from the Pole Kacper Kozłowski, who participated in the event in 2021 at 17.

The youngest Euro player. This could violate the law

The participation of such a young player in a professional football tournament raises questions about compliance with labour laws, especially in the context of German legislation. Kathrin Vossen, a lawyer specialising in labour law from Cologne, claims in Der Spiegel that the German Youth Employment Protection Act applies to all persons under 18 years old, including participants of Euro 2024 held in Germany.

According to these regulations, minors of Yamal's age can work between 6 am and 8 pm local time. The maximum working time is 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week, with a mandatory 12-hour break between shifts. As Vossen notes, "The match on Friday against Germany was not a problem because it started at 6 pm and ended well before 8 pm."

However, the expert points to potential complications in the case of the semi-final and final, which start at 9 pm. In such a scenario, Yamal could exceed the permitted working hours for minors. Vossen emphasises that working hours include not only the match itself but also the warm-up, post-match shower, and participation in the press conference.

It is worth noting that German law provides exceptions for some sectors, including sports events. In such cases, "creative participation" is allowed until 11 pm. Nevertheless, as Vossen points out, Yamal's activities meet all the criteria for work under the law: "There is a private-law agreement, remuneration, work tools, and he is subject to orders and dependent on decisions of others."

Spain potentially faces a fine

Violating the youth employment protection regulations could result in a fine of up to €15,000 for the Spanish federation. However, Vossen considers it "unlikely" that such a fine would be imposed, pointing to the margin of discretion available to labour inspection authorities.

When asked about this issue by Der Spiegel, UEFA referred to Article 48 of its statutes, which does not specify a minimum age for players. By comparison, the German Football Association (DFB) has set the minimum age for players in the Bundesliga, 2. Bundesliga, and 3rd league at 16 years old from the 2023/24 season.

Other interpretations also appear in the media. They point to two regulations: the German Youth Employment Law (JArbSchG) and the Residence of Foreigners (Aufenthaltsgesetz). They state that athletes staying in Germany for up to 90 days are exempt from the requirement to have a work permit.

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