Apparently, many see as very irritating or annoying seeing lots their friends, colleagues or even spouse talk or argue about Sports and sportsmen almost every day.
Gone are the days when sports was merely for leisure or recreation. Today it has evolved into a very lucrative professional venture especially in the western world. Amidst the apparent pitfalls of sports activities such as causing life time individual enemies between zealous fans and players, Racism, death of some players and loss of Job for some others, It has produced great men and icons such as Mohammed Ali, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather and most recently Anthony Joshua in boxing, The Rock, John Cena and the Undertaker in Wrestling, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in Football among others.
It has also ensured a harmonious relationship between diverse nationals even when their countries are sworn enemies.
The foregoing indicates that the broad nature of Sports activities which has and will continue to gain wide recognition all over the world among sports loving fans. However, only very few person are quite curious to understudy the nitty-gritty of the job of sportsmen which is usually geared towards not only making money and getting accolades for themselves but also satisfying their enthusiastic fans.
In consideration of the above and how herculean the task to give succinct intellection on every sports activities is, this article seeks to focus on the sport of Football, the nature of the employment of footballers and the determination of their contracts, the regulatory bodies of Sports (regionally and globally) and the adjudicatory bodies involved in settling of football disputes.
The Brazilian, Edson Arantes Do Nascimento popularly known as ‘Pele’ and arguably the greatest player of all time described football as the most popular sport in modern era and as well the most beautiful game in the world.
According to Wikipedia, Football is a team sport played with a spherical ball between two teams of eleven players. It is played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies, making it the world’s most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field called a ‘Pitch’ with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to score by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing goal. It is important to note that in America it is called ‘Soccer’.
Just like in almost every aspect of human endeavour, to become a professional footballer of club, there must at least be a written contract between the player and the interested club stipulating the terms and agreement between the parties. To put legally, the contract must have the basic elements such as offer, acceptance, consideration (usually in money’s worth), intention to create legal relationship and capacity to contract. See Petroleum Training Institute v. Brown Uwamu (2001) FWLR Pt.70 Pg. 1567 @1578; Obaike v B.L.L. Plc. (1997) 10 NWLR pt. 525 pg. 435; Orient Bank (Nig.) Plc. v Bilante International Ltd (1997) 8 NWLR pt. 515 pg. 37; Okubule v Oyagbola (1990) 4 NLWR Pt 147 pg. 723.
Note the section 10 and 11 of the Nigerian Football Association Act repealed by Nigerian Football Federation bill 2014 provides that no transfer of a Nigerian Amateur or professional football player to a club outside Nigeria shall be valid, unless the transfer is under a written contract providing, amongst others…the secretary general of the football federation must also endorse the contract.
This does not apply to players without a club at the time of the contract
Note that for international transfers it is only players must be over 18 years to have the capacity to contract except the player’s parents move to the buying club’s country for non-footballing reasons or the transfer is within EU or European Economic Area and player is between 16 and 18 or they live in another country within 100km of the club. See Article 19 of the FIFA transfer rules.
Upon the signing of contract and necessary documentation of the agreement, the player becomes an employee of the club with reciprocal duties and responsibilities between the club and the player. The foregoing in line with the test of determining who an employee is under labour law i.e. ‘the control test’, ‘integration test’ and the most acceptable the ‘multiple test’.
There are several ways in which the contract of employment of football players can be determined. It includes outright sale of the player (usually during transfer windows and for an amount of money), the release or total discharge of players through issuance of a certificate of release by the club (the released player is entitled to the entire salaries for the years remaining in his contract, the death of the player, the winding up of the club, the sacking of the manager (the manager is usually entitled to the entire salaries for the years remaining in his contract) etc.
Note that a loan agreement between a clubs does not completely determine the contract between the parent club and the loanee. It entails the making of a new contract with shared responsibilities between the two contracting clubs.
Also a suspension doesn’t determine the contract between a club and a player. The latter is only liable to some disciplinary measures such as non-payment of salary or allowance during the period of the suspension or the prohibition from the use of the club’s facility within a period of time.
This must however be distinguished from a ban which involves the prohibition of the player from football activities for a period of time or until the ban is lifted. A typical example is Luis Suarez of Liverpool who was suspended for 8 matches after biting Ivanovic (Chelsea) during an English premiere league match and Chellini (Italy) during the world cup respectively.
Appeals of either suspension or ban can be taken to the International Court of Arbitration for Sports or the respective regulatory or disciplinary bodies governing football depending on the locality.
The determination or termination of the contract of employment of is usually regulated by the terms and conditions embedded in the signed contract but it must also conform with football laws and rules such as Nigeria Football Federation bill 2014, Confederation Africaine de Football (CAF) Code of Ethics or Disciplinary Codes, FIFA Disciplinary rules, Uefa regulations among others.
To conclude, following are important legal tips in football:
(a) a player will not be liable for injuries caused during the course of the game except if done maliciously in some circumstances e.g. use of sharp or prohibited objects to injure another player or fan
(b) in the event of breach of contract between, a player is entitled to sue the club or the appropriate adjudicatory body in that locality e.g. International court of arbitration for sports
(c) A retired player is not entitled to Pension even when it can be successfully argued that he is an employee of the club
(d) upon the determination of a contract, a player can only disclose certain confidential information of his former club such as illegal contracts of the club, club formations and tactics etc.
(e) the court do not always enforce restrictive covenants restricting players from playing in some particular rival clubs
(f) Every player must undergo and pass medical tests before being signed or employed as a professional player of a club.
About the author
EZZA CHIGOZIE JUDE is a law student, Faculty of Law, Ebonyi State University.
For knowledge and Justice
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