In professional sports, a free agent is a player whose contract with a team has expired and who is thus eligible to sign with another club or franchise.
The term came into wide use in North America after sports leagues stopped using a "reserve clause", which provided a repetitive option for the club to renew the contract for one or more years but did not allow the player to terminate.
In the European Union, the 1995 Bosman ruling by the European Court of Justice established this right for association football players in all EU member nations. The Bosman ruling has since been extended to cover other professional sports and players from Eastern Europe. Players were still tied to their clubs unless their contract ran out until the Webster ruling allowed players the opportunity to move between nations, though it does not free footballers to move within the national league in which they currently play.