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The Trouble with Unilateral Termination of Contract [FIFA Regulation]

A player who is considering self-terminating of his contract with a club should think very careful and seek a specialized lawyers advice.

Let’s starts with a short story about a Ghanaian player. In January 2015 he signed with a North African team till the end of the 2017-2018 season. The club paid irregular and always too late and by October 2016 the player was owned approximately 200K which equaled to 2/3rd of his yearly salary at that moment.

The club intimidated the player via punishment training which they also proudly announced on their website. Beside that they were also so kind to inform him in writing that they had no intention to pay him anymore unless he stopped a pending FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (‘DRC’) procedure. So there comes that moment at that the player thinks enough is enough.

The club was far more than three months behind with payments and the player self-terminated his contract. Now probably most of us will think that’s fair enough. The player should go on sign with a new club and get on with life. NO!

Well now that’s not how it works. Club after club spoke with the player and discussed offers ranging between 200K and 400K per year but all of them were in the end too scared to sign him. All of them were put off by the FIFA regulations that oversee the signing of players whose contract have been terminated.

How the FIFA regulations limit the players freedom to work and from which corner help can be expected is explained hereunder.

International registration after contract expiration or multilateral termination
When a player’s contract with a club ends after expiration of his contract or mutual termination he will not normally encounter problems when he signs for a new club in a different country. His new contract will be registered with the new football association (‘FA’) which FA will request an International Transfer Certificate (‘ITC’) from the former FA. If the new FA does not receive a response to the ITC request within 15 days of the ITC request being made, it shall immediately register the professional player with the new club on a provisional basis.

In everyday practice a new registration after contract expiration or mutual termination happens flawless.

Restricted freedom of work after unilateral termination
When a player or an agent hears the words ‘unilateral termination’ he will most likely think of the situation where a player after months of none payment decides that it has been enough and terminates. There are however more scenario’s. Let’s list the 4 main ones:

In 3 out of 4 scenario’s (A,B and C) clubs have an active role. They are the terminating party and or the party that breaches the contract in such a way that the player has just cause to terminate.

Only in one scenario the player is the terminating party as well as the breaching and liable party (scenario D).

The position of a player whose contract has been unilateral terminated differs drastically from other out of contract players. He will face far greater obstacles when he wants to find a new job because:

  • A new FA needs prior authorization from FIFA to register the player provisional with a new club 2, and

  • A new club is jointly liable for damages that a player will have to pay to his former club (type B & D). 3

The case of our Ghanaian player is either a scenario C or D scenario depending on the outcome of his claims with the DRC or the Court of Sport (‘CAS’) if there will be an appeal....Read More

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