SPORTS LAW AT THE CROSSROADS

New FIFA player contract rules aim at stability and clarify termination conditions

By Andrew Warshaw in Madrid

May 10 – Recently introduced legal moves designed to improve the financial relationship between clubs and players will act as important milestone in contractual stability, according to one of FIFA’s top legal  experts.

Erika Montemor Ferreira, head of player status at FIFA told the Sports Law at the Crossroads conference in Madrid  that the new guidelines, introduced last year, help in determining whether contracts are being terminated with “just cause” by players whose salaries have not been paid on time.

FIFPro, the international players union, withdrew its complaint to the European Commission against FIFA’s global transfer rules only after the two parties agreed a six-year player contract cooperation deal.

FIFPro’s original complaint in 2015 was against restraint-of-trade with some experts suggesting it could have been as far-reaching as the 1995 Bosman ruling that let players change clubs at the end of their contracts without a transfer fee exchanging hands.

A 2016 FIFPro survey of 14,000 of its members found 41% of them had experienced delays in their pay and a significant number had been forced by their clubs to train alone as a tactic to make them break contracts.

Ferreira said both parties should always find a way to resolve their differences and continue with the employment contract with the termination of the contract the last resort.

But, she said, the recent amendment to the rules is designed to reinforce the maintenance of contractual stability, while including the jurisprudence of the Dispute Resolution Chamber in the regulations, clarifying that if the club fail to pay two monthly salaries without valid reason – provided they have issued  a default notice granting the club 15 days to fulfill its obligations – this constitutes just cause.

“We should never forget one of the most important principles …is contractual stability,” Ferreira told delegates who included some of Europe’s most acute footballing brains.
FIFA hopes that the amendments to the RSTP (Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players) will lead to a far healthier landscape. It is understood FIFA has around 1,000 contractual cases a year to deal with – evidence if any was needed of the importance of tightening up the rules in order to avoid painful disputes between clubs and players and ensure both parties comply with their respective obligations.

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