An agreement has recently been reached between the representatives of the Parties of the European Social Dialogue, namely EPFL, ECA, FIFPro and UEFA regarding the minimum requirements for standard players’ contracts in the professional football sector.

There is no common EU policy regarding these minimum requirements, in some countries there are national collective bargaining agreements in place that set down such minimum requirements on a national basis, while in others even this level of protection is absent and Clubs have a wide discretion in negotiating contracts with Players. The Agreement intends to solve this problem of lack of uniformity and sufficient security for Players.

The Agreement plays a significant part in encouraging debate and dialogue between the representatives of Players and leagues.

The Agreement sets down the basic requirements of a professional Player’s employment contract (the Contract). The Contract needs to be in writing and signed by the Payer and the Club (Art 3.1), and it has to be for a certain period (Art 3.5). It needs to state the Club’s obligations towards the Player such as payment of salary, benefits, medical and health insurance for the Player (Art 6.2). It also needs to state the Player’s obligations towards the Club (eg. to play matches to best of ability, to participate in training, to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to undergo regular medical examination) (Art 7.2). Under Article 17 Players and Clubs have the power to deviate from the Agreement for the benefit of the Player. If the provisions of the national Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) or the individual contract of the Player are more favourable to him than the Agreement, the more favourable conditions prevail. Article 18 commits the Parties to use “best endeavours” to ensure the implementation of the Agreement at national level.

In a “greenfieldsituation”, where there is no national CBA in force, the Agreement sets down a standard. Disputes arising as a result of deviation from these standards should be resolved at national level, by social dialogue. Where this is not possible, the matter should be referred to the Contact Committee[1], which may assist the parties in reaching an agreement.

The legal status of the Agreement becomes important in a situation where no agreement could be reached. It may be argued that as the Agreement is not in the form of a directive, it has no binding effect on the parties and it is of persuasive nature. It could also be argued that as the representatives of both Players and leagues signed the Agreement on European level it should be regarded as binding. However, it would be debatable what kind of obligation it places on national parties; whether the obligation would be to use best endeavours to come to an agreement, or whether it would be directly applicable and enforceable.

In a “brownfield situation” where there is already a national CBA in place, the Agreement provides a set of guidelines. The Agreement provides clear instructions for situations where inconsistencies between national CBAs and the Agreement arise. If the national CBA is less favourable to the Player in some way than the Agreement, under Article 18 the parties at national level are required to use their “best endeavours” to come to a solution, absent which, the national CBA prevails (Art 18.1). This reflects the Social Partners’ intention to respect the principle of subsidiarity.

Luca Ferrari
Júlia Bihary (stager CBA)

[1] A body comprising 2 representatives from FIFPro Division Europe, 1 representative from EPFL, 1 rep. from the ECA and 1 rep. from the UEFA