Arsenal - The need for other fair play rules
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The need for other fair play rules

Sebastien Squillaci's transfer to Arsenal seems to have carried a bit of a theme in some of this seasons transfer shenanigans. Allegedly he refused to play in Sevilla's first leg CL qualifying game against Braga once knowledge of an offer from Arsenal was known. There is some doubt about the precise circumstances as there is a suggestion that the coach had selected him without any knowledge of any impending transfer and that it was a discussion between Seville's sporting director, who would have known, and Squillaci that lead to the player withdrawing himself. Whatever did go on the transfer was one that Seville were quite happy to make public and reached an agreement fairly swiftly with Arsenal despite any actions attributed to Squillaci.

The transfer of Mascherano from Liverpool to Barcelona, and the potential transfer of Begovic from Stoke to whoever, has also involved those players apparently refusing to turn out for their teams. Some might cynically claim that a footballer refusing to play football for Stoke perhaps isn't so much of a controversy as a tactical requirement, to the extent that it is employed by those out on the pitch. Nevertheless the justification for doing so is usually to put pressure on the selling club to accede to the players' wishes and to avoid reducing the value of the player to the buying club. Either way it's a distasteful aspect of not only player power but the encouragement of clubs to pressure players to act against the club they are contracted to in order to facilitate the transfer in favour of the buying club.

It's not too hard to understand the motivation but that doesn`t make it acceptable. Curiously though football seems to have much tougher rules for players refusing to play in meaningless international friendlies than it does for players refusing to turn out for the clubs they are contracted to.

Fabregas faces the prospect of flying to Argentina during the present international break to take part in a friendly match for Spain a few days before our next league fixture. Under Fifa statutes any player picked by his national association is, as a general rule, 'obliged to respond affirmatively when called up'. If a player refuses the invitation or if his club refuses to release him he can be prevented from playing for his club for up to 7 days after the date of the international fixture. Any club fielding a disallowed player under those conditions in that time can be deemed to have lost the fixture he took part in and forgo any points or progress in the competition involved.

In contrast refuse to play for the club that pays your wages and other than perhaps the prospect of the club taking limited disciplinary action the authorities will turn a blind eye to it. If football decided sometime ago that regulations compelling a player to turn out for his national team were needed then why should their clubs not receive a similar level of regulatory support? Maybe this is a decision that needs to be made to lean a little more towards the contracted club. Should a player refuse to play in a match for which he is selected without just cause then he should be automatically banned from playing in the equivalent competition for any other club for a proportion of the rest of that season, maybe even all of it, be it domestic or continental competition. This would instantly discourage the player from taking such action and the buying club from encouraging him to do so.

Player contract law has loosened significantly in favour of the player over recent times. Effectively no contract lasts more than 3 years or 2 years, depending on age, due to the limited action that can be taken once a player is outside his protected period of contract. Players need to accept that with this greater freedom of contract there is a responsibility to ensure that they honour the contracts they do sign.

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The Journalist

Writer: Amos Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday August 30 2010

Time: 8:23AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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But then.. Would you willing to have another Joleon Lescott incident?
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30/08/2010 09:54:00

The wisdom of playing a wantaway player too early is a matter for the manager to decide but it's as much about removing an incentive for the buying club to encourage a player to be disruptive as it is about thwarting a players wishes. Either way it should be a decision for the contracted club to make not the player.
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30/08/2010 10:47:00

it's a very tough situation...contract law tends to be against enforcing performance of employment contract for perceived slavery-type scenarios (amazing when you think about it, that a player who earns many people's yearly salary in a week could be classed as a slave, but...) the only real remedy available is an injunction stopping them playing for other clubs for the duration of the contract and damages in the event of a breach of contract...having a player sitting out is not a beneficial situation for the club, whether or not wages paid during this period are recoverable. It reduces their sell on price, and is detrimental to the club's on field performance. How can you possibly stop a strike like this? I really have no idea...
Report Abuse
30/08/2010 11:00:00

Nice piece Amos, and your spot on with your point above. If a player is fit and deemed suitable for selection by the manager, then that player PLAYS. Regardless of any ' interest ' from other clubs, that particular player is contracted to play for the club and MUST do so, if selected. It is for the CLUB to decide to leave that player out of the team IF they feel they want to sell the player, or have entered serious negotiations with another club. This is where the transfer ' window ' is wrong. All DOMESTIC transfer deals MUST be concluded 1 week before the start of the new season. Clubs have had ALL summer to conclude their business and accquire their transfer targets. It is ridiculous to let it drag on 3 weeks into the season, thus disrupting team preparations and unsettling players.
Cockney Rich
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30/08/2010 11:03:00

Amos> There are extensive sanctions for players who breach contracts. The problem is that clubs don't apply them because they punish the club as well. If they complain to FIFA, the player can be banned for a lengthy period. That's going to make things better, right? As far as I can see, the solution to this is through the courts, by suing the player for breach of contract, rather than anything to do with FIFA or UEFA. You also have to look at whether there's any difference between Mutu being liable for great big wodges of cash when he broke his contract, and cases like this.
user banned
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30/08/2010 11:16:00

@user banned - Mutu was sued for the transfer fee that Chelsea paid on the basis that he did not disclose his cocaine addiction. Something akin to misrepresentation. He then had his employment contract cancelled for drug use. I dont think this could extend to a Mascherano type scenario.
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30/08/2010 11:51:00

I don't think resorting to the civil courts is a practical solution. By the time most cases are settled many players would have finished their playing careers. The regulations regarding turning up for international duty don't have to be enforced that often - rarely at all. It's enough that they exist to oblige compliance. It would be just as easy to adopt a regulation to help control the actions of players and clubs towards their contractual obligations.
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30/08/2010 12:04:00

Shut the transfer window domestically one week before the season starts. Any player at a club for the start of the season knows that he MUST play for the club until at least January. Any games missed by the player ( unless injured or not selected ) will result in 1 weeks loss of wages, and a 3 match ban per game missed, if / when that player signs for his new club.
Cockney Rich
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30/08/2010 12:09:00

UB: There aren’t any Fifa or Uefa statutes which would impose sanctions against a player for refusing to play for his club. There are other sanctions regarding termination without just cause but those aren’t relevant in this situation.
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30/08/2010 12:13:00

Agreed wih CR there..the transfer window can start early and closed before the season starts..its an alternative though..and I think its up to the player's professionalism..if you are a professional'll play for your club until you officially sign for other. Having said that, Squillaci case is an exception because if he plays the CL game, then he cannot play for us. IF Sevilla wants him to play for a league match, then he should've played.
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30/08/2010 12:42:00

JL13> Nope, Mutu was (eventually) ruled to have terminated his own contract by taking drugs, and then was sued for his value by Chelsea on the basis that he had unilaterally broken his contract. This is directly comparable to breaking contract by refusing to play. Amos> I totally disagree about the length of time it would take to pursue an action in the civil courts. Unlike the Mutu case, which was a test case of sorts, there would be no grey area here. If a contract is breached, you ask for the relevant penalties due under law to be paid. If they are not, the only court action necessary is to obtain a court order to compel payment, just like any other unpaid bill. You're quite right that there's no specific regulation forcing a player to turn out for his team, because all he can do is (effectively) retire - he won't be allowed to play for anyone else, which is how the regs are targeted.
user banned
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30/08/2010 23:10:00

Withdrawal of labour isn't necessarily a breach of contract - at least I'm pretty sure that's what a decent lawyer would argue if a club were foolish enough to try to pursue such a matter through the civil courts. Not fit to play due to stress should do it I’d think. Even so you need to show what the damages are? A weeks wages? The club already has the capacity to fine a player or suspend him without recourse to the courts. You're looking at the wrong solution to the wrong problem. Removimg the benefits of the player withdrawing his labour will remove the incentive to do so, suing for breach of contract won't take you anywhere you’d want to go.
Report Abuse
30/08/2010 23:54:00

Amos> Try that one where you work, then, see how far it goes. And the damages for breach of contract are not a grey area just because you don't know about it. See the Mutu case for a football-specific precedent, but see any book on contract law for the basics. Anyway, a while ago I was thinking that players shouldn't get paid to play - they should get paid to train, and regard playing for Arsenal as a bonus. I detest the concept of an appearance fee, and the idea that you get a bonus for winning a trophy - well, surely that *is* a bonus, and the times you want extra money are when you didn't win anything?
user banned
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31/08/2010 13:44:00

There are many examples of employees temporarily withdrawing their labour under conditions and grievance procedures without it constituting an automatic breach of contract. The same goes for suspension of contract - the terms for which are rarely ever standard. I'll leave you to do some more research into the topic using whatever contract law book you are most comfortable with. The Mutu case though isn't anything like relevant to the circumstances we are discussing here and in any case Chelsea were only awarded a sum equivalent to the unfulfilled contract period of the transfer fee paid - so not really a great example.
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31/08/2010 14:43:00


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