Sheffield United FC win FIFA training compensation caseMatthew Chantler
I recently advised Sheffield United FC (SUFC) on its successful defence of a training compensation claim before the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC). SUFC faced a significant training compensation claim due to its acquisition of a young international football player from France.
The claimant club, where the French player had been based before signing for SUFC, made its initial request for payment in 2008, arguing that as the player had signed his first professional contract with SUFC it was therefore entitled to training compensation. SUFC disputed the claim basing its argument on a letter from 2007 signed by a coach from the claimant club that declared the player a free agent and went on to say the player was free to sign a contract with SUFC, free of payment.
The matter came before the DRC late in 2012. It found in favour of SUFC and held that the claimant club had, by way of the 2007 letter, waived any possible right to receive training compensation. It dismissed the claimant club’s arguments and stated that the letter was “clear and unambiguous”.
This was a great result for SUFC but it does demonstrate how long these claims can take before FIFA. It also highlights the issues facing clubs who rely on waivers from the player’s former club that do not explicitly state that no fee will be requested for the player’s registration (a transfer fee) nor any training compensation. Unfortunately the claimant’s interpretation that the letter only referred the former led to the long drawn out process before FIFA.
Any club acquiring an amateur international player should do thorough due diligence before completing the signing. If relying on a waiver, then it is essential to ensure:
- that the waiver explicitly includes any claim for training compensation,
- it is on the club’s letter head, and
- it is signed by an authorised official.
The club must be satisfied that the player is truly an amateur player. We often see players who are classed as “amateurs” but who have a written contract with the club and receive more than their expenses, thus making them professional players in accordance with the FIFA RSTP. For players moving from one association to another within the EU, clubs must find out if the previous club has made them an offer of employment or if they have a bona fide and genuine interest in retaining the player.
Even if it turns out that training compensation is due, then the case may still be made that the amount sought is disproportionate and therefore the DRC should use its discretion and reduce the amount sought.
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About the Author
Matthew, a solicitor at Mills & Reeve LLP, specialises in Sports Law and is an FA and RFL Registered Lawyer. He advises players' associations including Professional Players Federation, Professional Footballers' Association, PFA Scotland, Rugby Players Association, 1eagu3 and their members, a number of professional football clubs, players and agents on regulatory and legal matters.