Can Tevez Tear Up His Own Contract. – ‘Club Power -v- Player Power’. – ‘Sporting Just Cause’

If Tevez is as unhappy about staying in Manchester as his associates apparently suggest and refuses to play or retire, City may sue for breach of contract, seeking tens of millions of pounds in compensation from Tevez agent. Given that Tevez has 3 and a half years left to run on a five year contract worth around £10 million a year that could reportedly amount to a claim for around £35 million.   

City could claim compensation and seem prepared to do so – but FIFA are unlikely to award City the amount they would want, given the decision in Webster, in which Hearts complained to FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber (“DRC”) for Andrew Webster’s unilateral breach of contract without ‘just cause outside the protracted period’. In this case the Court for Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) in Lausanne, Switzerland”, heard the appeal from the DRC and upheld the decision but ruled that Heart’s compensation should be much less at £150,000.00.

Given the Webster case, a huge compensation payout for City may not be forthcoming, which seems to suggest that Players could be in the controlling seat.       

Player Power

Players are able to terminate their contracts for a valid sporting reason known as (‘Sporting Just Cause’). The Principle of “Sporting Just Cause”, whereby a player may unilaterally terminate his contract without sanction, has been refined. It applies to “established players” who have not appeared in 10% of a club’s official matches, possibly giving the opportunity for Tevez to tear up his own contract.

The reference to “established players” is clearly a restriction on the application of the principle but no definition of what constitutes an “established player” and each case will continue to be considered on its own facts. Given the high profile of Tevez, he clearly, seems to fit the category of an established player.       

Sporting Just Cause will be established on a case by case basis, however, each case will be evaluated on its individual’s merits taking account of all relevant circumstances (injury, suspension, field position of player, ages of player, etc). Furthermore, it is understood that the existence of Sporting Just Cause shall be examined at the end of the football season and before the expiry of the relevant transfer window.

FIFA Regulations – Status and Transfer of Players (“the Regulations”)

Article 14 of the Regulations provides that “a contract may be terminated by either party without consequences of any kind (either payment of compensation or imposition of sporting sanctions) in the case of just cause”.

Article 15 contains the definition of ‘just cause’, which states that either party may terminate a player’s contract for ‘sporting just cause’. Such a right is granted if the player in question, in the period starting with the first official match and ending with the last official match of the relevant league or championship, has appeared in less than 10% of official matches in which his club has been involved.

However, players need to be careful that they get things right as Article 17 of the Regulations provides for sanctions that FIFA may impose if a player terminates a contract without a just cause.

Published December 15, 2010

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