What are footballer employment contracts?
Since Cristiano Ronaldo's contentious and early departure from Manchester United, the contractual relationship between footballers and their clubs has been the focus of much attention.
Footballer employment agreements, or player contracts, are an important aspect of a footballer's relationship with their club. The contract outlines the terms and conditions of the player's engagement with the club and sets out the rights and obligations of both parties.
Despite the enigma that surrounds the legal relationship between footballers and their clubs, the legal relationship is actually the standard employment relationship that exists between an employer and an employee.
All footballers are employees of their clubs. All Premier League and English Football League players are issued with a standard form employment agreement. When a footballer or an aspiring footballer is offered a professional contract with a club, the footballer's agent will normally negotiate only a few key clauses with the club, including the clauses relating to the player's salary and bonus and the duration of the contract. Most of the other provisions are standardised and are included in the employment agreements of all of the club's professional footballers.
This article provides a brief overview of the key clauses in a footballer's employment contract and how these differ from clauses in standard employment contracts in the UK.
How do player contracts differ from standard employment agreements in the UK?
Because it is expensive to employ a professional footballer, most footballer employment agreements are detailed and contain contractual obligations that are more onerous than those in traditional employment contracts. For example, footballers must maintain a high level of physical fitness throughout the duration of their employment with a football club.
Player contracts also differ from standard employment contracts in other ways. For example, most footballers' employment contracts usually do not contain post-termination restrictions, unlike standard employment contracts. Post-termination restrictions are intended to prevent outgoing employees from competing against their former employers for a defined period of time.
Many employment contracts in the UK also stipulate that the employee cannot work for another employer; however, most player contracts include provisions allowing the footballer to play for their national team when necessary.
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Key Clauses in a Footballer's Employment Contract
The Premier League standard player contract imposes several duties on the footballer. Unlike the duties set out in most employment contracts in the UK, these include a duty to keep fit, attend matches and avoid behaving in a manner that is likely to bring the club or the player into disrepute.
As is the case with most employment contracts, one of the key clauses in a footballer's employment agreement is the salary clause. Different players receive different pay packages based on their experience and the quality of their skills. Footballers are also entitled to bonuses, the details of which are set out in a schedule to the contract. For example, players can receive performance-related bonuses or incentive-related bonuses, as when they score a certain number of goals in a season.
In addition to the salary clause, most footballer employment contracts in the UK will also have attached schedules setting out supplementary information, including details of the club's disciplinary and grievance procedure and a breakdown of the player's remuneration. This normally includes an agreed pay progression structure and full details of any bonuses the player is entitled to receive.
Especially important is the clause stipulating the length of the contract. In the UK, most footballer employment agreements are signed for a fixed term or one season or more. If both parties agree to this, the contract can include an option allowing the club to extend the contract for a further duration. As per the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, the minimum length of a contract is a football season, and the maximum length is five years.
Image Rights and Marketing
Unlike most employment contracts, footballers' employment contracts also include provisions setting out rules relating to image rights and marketing. For example, the image rights clause will usually stipulate that the player must take part in certain club marketing activities.
The Club's Rights and Obligations
The club's contractual obligations include arranging medical treatment for players in certain circumstances, allowing the player to represent their national team when needed and maintaining a safe work environment.
Most footballers' employment agreements stipulate that clubs have the option to terminate the contract on fourteen days' notice in certain circumstances, including where the player is guilty of gross misconduct or certain criminal offences.
The contract will usually also allow the club to terminate the footballer's employment when the footballer has suffered a permanent or prolonged incapacity.
The footballer is also able to terminate the contract on fourteen days' notice if the club has persistently breached the terms of the contract or has failed to pay the footballer any compensation due to them.
The Bottom Line
While footballer employment contracts can be detailed and more complex than standard employment contracts, footballer employment contracts are instrumental in setting out the framework of the relationship between the player and the club and are in place to protect the interests of both parties.