Negotiations are proceeding on a case-by-case basis.
FIFA can only recommend consensus and delegates to RFEF.
MIAMI, Fla. (22-04-2020) —
In Spain, in the middle of a flood of ERTE (expediente de regulación temporal de empleo – i.e. temporary layoffs) and reductions in wages, coupled with a controversy between the Real Federación Español de Fútbol (“RFEF”), LaLiga and AFE (Spanish Players’ Association) over the protocols that are being formalized and unveiled for the return to normality, there is an ongoing legal hurdle which rightly has the world of soccer very concerned: what will happen to the contracts that expire on June 30 (almost 400) if it is necessary to extend this season beyond that date?
According to a report in AS, Clubs and footballers in Spain have successfully started negotiations on a case-by-case basis, to find an accord that satisfies all parties. And they are doing it without the interventions of La Liga president Javier Tebas and the president of the AFE, David Aganzo, who met again yesterday and who will simply advise their associates.
In several cases both in the first and second divisions, agreements have been reached to extend the contracts until the last official match of the 2019-20 season is played. In most cases, the contracted wages would remain the same as in an existing contract, with a date from which there could be additional compensation if the season were to lengthen too long.
It is hoped that this collaborative approach will be the norm in Spanish football, leaving the football lawyers to matters such as interpreting national and international regulations, sports and labour laws, and the messages of the RFEF. The announced recommendations of FIFA, remain just that, recommendations, since FIFA has no authority over matters pertaining to labour law, which of course include contracts between a club and a player.
Three Areas of Concern Related To Player Contracts
“It will be necessary to go contract by contract reading the fine print as there is no single model.”AFE
There are three scenarios of concern to the respective presidents and for which, according to union sources, “it will be necessary to go contract by contract reading the fine print as there is no single model.” There is an assumption that some footballers may not agree to a contract modification, resulting in his club having to resort to the rescission clause or to a request for damages.
The first area of concern for clubs is that of a player on loan. However, according to the lawyers consulted, there should be no greater problem with them. Players on loan will remain with their current team until the end of the season and will then join their next team at the beginning of the next season. This is what FIFA says. The only question that arises is who will pay them during the time their contract is extended beyond June 30th, the date by which loans end?
Applying a legal analysis to this, it seems to me that it will be a case-by-case situation, and will turn on the actual loan agreement contract. In some agreements, the player is paid by the club that he has been loaned to; in other cases by the loaning team, and in other cases payments are shared by the two clubs involved. The plan being worked out is that the signed loan agreement that is in effect today will remain valid until this campaign is terminated.
Second, there are footballers who were bought and whose contracts expire on 30 June. Within this category, the clubs and players are discussing making a distinction: a) those players who already have an agreement with another club (remember that under FIFA rules players who are in the last six months of a contract can negotiate as a free agent, meaning that players whose contract are up on June 30, 2020 were able to negotiate for a transfer from January 1, 2020) and b) those who have not yet found a new club. The clubs and players are in agreement that the former, simiilar to players on loan, must finish at their current club and will not be released with to join their new teammates until the 2020-21 season begins, whenever. that might be. Further, they will continue to be paid the salary agreed to in their contracts, even if that means a total of 13 or 14 payments instead of the normal 12 payments per year. (Contracts provide for monthly payments instead of weekly or bi-weekly.) Moreover, these players will be compensated the full amount of what was agreed to with their new club, but it may be payable in 10 or 11 months instead of one year because next season’s calendar will likely be shortened.
However, the latter are the biggest problem. Those whose contracts expire on June 30 and are still looking for a new destination are going to be in a hurry to see this season finish as soon as possible since they may have the most to lose. The extension of the season beyond June 30 places them at a negotiating disadvantage because the 2020/21 season is likely to be shorter, which will allow clubs to negotiate for a smaller salary for these players. On top of that, clubs will have less money to spend due to business income losses as a result of COVID-19. In addition, clubs who employ a foreign player whose contract ends on June 30 have an additional consideration in that there could also be trouble with the extension of the player’s contract, since a foreigner’s tax withholding is less and any extension of the player’s contract could result in additional taxes owed to the Treasury.
With talks ongoing, calm has arrived. But the various stakeholders each have their own views on the interpretation of player contracts, and therein lies the continued potential for conflict.
FIFA has taken the following viewpoint on contracts: “Contracts normally end at the end of the season and the season end date coincides with the expiration date of the contract. It is proposed that contracts be extended until the time the season actually ends” Under this view, the summer transfer window will not open until the 2019/20 season ends.
The RFEF (Spanish Football Association) clings to its general regulation in point 125: “The [player] licenses will have the same duration as the commitment, whether contractual or not, of the footballer with the club.”
The position of the AFE (the Spanish players union) is more combative: “A systematized extension would produce a violation of the rights of the worker if it were not a decision of the signatory parties negotiated individually, as a single act, each of those contracts. It would lead to challenges in the courts.”
LaLiga is convinced that the law is clear and is on the side of the clubs when considering that the contracts are signed, as a provision of services, per season and not “from day to day.” Annexes to the laws are not expected as a solution.
While all parties believe that “good will is needed,” achieving it given the division that exists in Spanish football seems difficult.
LaLiga advised clubs on contracts
The ongoing issue of how to interpret the contracts was again discussed at the most recent legal-labour consultancy which LaLiga offers weekly to its clubs. With the issue of ERTEs already seemingly clear, the questions focused on contracts. Although the priority issue remains the return to training and competition, the matter of contracts is something that the presidents want to wrap up for peace of mind, especially for coaches, who right now don’t know if they will have their complete squads available if/when the season resumes.
To this end, what FIFA saids to its 210 member federations was clarified at the meeting: “If a contract expires on the original end date of the season, said expiration must be extended until the new end date. If a contract begins on the date of original start of next season, this start should be postponed until the new date. If there is overlap, priority will be given to the previous club.”
Also mentioned was the RFEF regulation in Article 116.2: “A footballer may be enrolled in a single club, without the possibility of being discharged and discharged by it in the course of the same season (speaks of season and not specific dates) except in cases of force majeure or regulatory provision.”
LICENCIAS DE FUTBOLISTAS
Artículo 116. Limitaciones.
2. Un futbolista podrá estar inscrito en un solo equipo de un club, sin posibilidad de ser dado de baja y alta por el mismo en el transcurso de la misma temporada, salvo caso de fuerza mayor o disposición reglamentaria. Asimismo, en el trascurso de la temporada, no podrá estar inscrito y alinearse en más de tres distintos.
Even so, what reassures most of the leaders are legal advisers like Santi Nebot, who worked five years at AFE and who now advises many clubs.