New EU agreement on employment rights for footballers

In mid-April 2012, social partners representing both clubs and players in Europe’s professional football sector signed an agreement setting out minimum requirements for contracts between clubs and players. It sets out obligations for both sides and contains sections on anti-doping, players’ contracts, action against racism and disciplinary procedures. It is hoped the agreement will help set minimum standards across Europe, particularly in eastern Europe.

Background

On 19 April 2012, a new agreement (2.98Mb PDF) setting out minimum contract requirements for professional footballers was signed by the social partners in the European football sector; the players’ trade union FIFPro, the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL), the European Club Association (ECA) and, in the role of observer, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the governing body of European football.

The agreement states that contracts must be in writing and signed by both club and player. If the contract involves a minor, the parent or guardian must also sign. The agreement also makes it clear that the national legislation of the country in which the club is registered applies to the contract, unless it is explicitly agreed that another jurisdiction applies.

Obligations of the club

Any player’s contract should define the club’s financial obligations with regard to:

  • salary, including regular, monthly, weekly and performance-based payments;
  • other payments such as bonuses, reward based on experience and fees for international appearances;
  • non-financial benefits such as accommodation and car allowances;
  • medical and health insurance and sick pay arrangements;
  • pension and social security contributions;
  • reimbursement of expenses.

In the case of young players, the agreement stipulates that the European Directive 94/33/EC on the protection of young people at work applies. It says all young players must be able to follow mandatory schooling in accordance with national law, and that no young player involved in a club’s youth development programme can be prevented from following their non-football education.

Paid leave is defined in the agreement as a minimum of four weeks in a 12-month period. Leave must be taken outside the normal football season and at least two weeks should be taken consecutively. The contract should also define the length of the player’s working day or week.

The contract should also explain the club’s health and safety policy, making reference to the provisions of Directive 89/391/EEC for risk assessment, preventive measures, information and consultation, participation and training.

Clubs should also keep records relating to injury, including those incurred while playing for a national team.

Obligations of the player

The contract defines the player’s obligations as follows:

  • to play matches to the best of their ability when selected;
  • to participate in training and match preparation, under the direction of the head coach;
  • to maintain a healthy lifestyle and high standard of fitness, and not to participate in potentially dangerous activities not covered by the club’s insurance;
  • to act in accordance with club officials’ instructions, such as living in a suitable place and obeying club rules, including disciplinary regulations;
  • to behave in a sporting manner during matches and preparation and to accept the decisions of officials;
  • to notify the club in the case of illness or accident and not to undergo treatment without notifying the club’s doctor, except in emergencies;
  • to undergo regular medical examinations or treatment as required by the club doctor;
  • to comply with the club’s anti-discrimination policy;
  • not to bring the club into disrepute and not to gamble.

Other provisions

The agreement contains a section on anti-doping, which states that the player and club will comply with all relevant anti-doping provisions, that doping is illegal and that those who administer illegal substances or encourage others to do so will be disciplined.

The contract also contains a disciplinary procedure for issues not specifically covered by contracts. And it states that players and clubs should comply with national collective bargaining agreements, where these exist, and respect clauses on minimum wages.

Both clubs and players are contractually committed to act against racism and any other types of discrimination in football.

Commentary

The agreement has been welcomed by all signatory parties. Philippe Piat, President of FIFPro Division Europe said: ‘This is good for the game, for the clubs and of course, it is also good for the players. This agreement will see to it that their rights will be better protected.’

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, President of the ECA, added: ‘In football there are players who earn a lot of money, like Ronaldo, Messi, Ribéry. But there are also many players in Europe who are facing difficulties. I thank the football family for finding solutions to these problems.’

EPFL Chief Executive Officer Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros stated in a press release:

Today is a historic day for European professional football. A new era in terms of good governance, stable relations between employers and footballers and problem solving was sparked here, joining all sides of the football family under the auspices of the European Commission. Mutual respect of contract leads to greater integrity of the competition and this is key to success on the field and long-term financial stability.

In particular, FIFPro will welcome the agreement as a means of setting minimum standards for the sport in eastern Europe. Recent FIFPro research into the problems professional footballers encounter in eastern Europe (7.6Mb PDF) revealed a range of issues, including problems with payment of salary, match fixing, racism and violence against players. The report notes:

There is a growing public perception that all footballers are wealthy and have a lifestyle that few others in society could aspire to. Whilst this may be true of some players, the vast majority are ordinary workers who ply their trade in an effort to secure a living for them and their families.

It is to be hoped that this new EU-level agreement will help to resolve some of these issues.

Andrea Broughton, Institute for Employment Studies

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