Manchester United Talk banner
1 - 2 of 2 Posts

Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Matt Scott
Thursday January 31, 2008
The Guardian

Andy Webster, the Scotland international, has put himself in the same company as Jean-Marc Bosman after taking a lead in the most significant football freedom-of-contract case in more than a decade. The Court of Arbitration for Sport yesterday issued a landmark ruling that in effect means no players can be held to their contracts for more than three years. For players who join clubs or renew their contracts after their 28th birthday that comes down to two years.

Webster's test case came about after he quit Heart of Midlothian for Wigan Athletic in May 2006, having spent three years of a four-year contract with the Scottish club. In doing so he became the first player to invoke article 17 of Fifa's transfer regulations.

A Fifa ruling awarded Hearts £625,000 but the Scottish club were seeking £4.6m - which they considered to be the player's market value at the time of his departure - and challenged Fifa's verdict at CAS. The court yesterday revised the compensation figure downwards to £150,000, which was the value of the remaining term of his contract when he crossed the border.

Fifa's disputes-resolution chamber can multiply contract values by a factor of 1.5 in calculating compensation. But, with a player's value directly linked to his wages, the ruling is likely to cause transfer fees to plunge.

"My view has always been that this is the most significant case since Bosman," said Tony Higgins of Fifpro, the European players' union. "The Webster case allows players, after a set period of time and if they so wish, to decide who their future employer will be. We now have a degree of certainty about what the value in question will be. Clubs have to re-evaluate their strategies in dealing with players on long-term contracts. If they are on four- or five-year contracts and fall into the relevant age bracket, clubs may now have to renegotiate after two years.

"It is a bit like Bosman, there will be worried clubs and clubs saying that this will ruin the game but after a period of time people will understand what their strategy will be and take due consideration. Once the clubs redefine their thinking, they will cope with this."

Higgins confirmed that clubs, as well as players, can unilaterally terminate contracts under the same terms. But it is likely also to cause clubs to suffer big accounting losses, since player contracts must now depreciate over a maximum of three years - the so-called "protected period" for players under 28 - rather than over durations of up to five years as now.

The CAS rejected Hearts' claim that the cost of replacing Webster should be a defining factor in the amount of compensation due. It further rejected the club's suggestion that, as in Scots law, commercial rather than basic employment values attached to football players' contracts should be primary. Hearts unsuccessfully argued that their development of Webster into an international player after he arrived for £75,000 from Arbroath in 2001 should be taken into account.

Those close to Hearts have been stunned by the outcome, with one leading sports lawyer remarking yesterday that he feared no player would receive a contract longer than three years. "All we have now is more negotiation, more money to agents and more money going out of the game," he added..

1 - 2 of 2 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.