Terminating a contract for “just cause”: how bad do things have to be? A review of CAS’s decision in Salkic

Published 14 September 2015 By: Lydia Banerjee, Grahame Anderson

Erik_Salkic

Relationship breakdown usually involves lots of finger pointing and blaming the other party. The relationship between a professional footballer and his or her club is no different and the blame game can be central to the question of who has the right to end a contract before the end of its fixed term. Players who feel they are being denied the chance to play or even train in the first team often want to escape the rest of their fixed term to protect their limited playing careers.

In an attempt to free themselves to move on, players may seek to exercise their right to end their contract for ‘just cause’ (i.e. a valid reason).1 Clubs naturally dislike their internal selection and disciplinary decisions being scrutinised and argue that they have the right to decide how players train and when they play (i.e. what is valid). So when can a player rely on the club’s decisions to end their contract? How bad do things have to be? Exactly what is ‘just cause’?

A Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) Panel led by Mark Hovell recently considered the issue in a dispute between Erik Salkic and the Football Union of Russia and the Professional Football Club Arsenal (no, not that Arsenal) (“the Club”).2 The article examines and analyses the decision.

 

FACTS

Mr Salkic is a Slovenian football player who signed an employment contract with the Club on 22 July 2013. The contract was for a fixed term of two years and described Mr Salkic as a “professional football player”. The club played in the second division of football in Russia known as 1 Division Championship. Under the terms of the contract Mr Salkic could be “assigned to the backup team of the Club’s football team for the performance in football matches of lower sporting level without affecting the substantial terms and conditions of his contract”.3 [9]

At the start of the 2013/2014 season, Mr Salkic played for the Club’s first team in seven matches for a total of 194 minutes. Between 4 and 18 January 2014, Mr Salkic attended training in Turkey with the first team. On 21 January Mr Salkic and his agent met with the President and General Director of the Club. The parties disputed exactly what was said during the meeting, but the panel found that the Club told Mr Salkic that he had the ‘opportunity’ to leave but no compensation would be offered.

 

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Lydia Banerjee

Lydia Banerjee

Lydia is an active member of the Littleton Chambers Sports law group. In line with the broader chambers specialisms Lydia’s core areas of practice are commercial law and employment law.  Lydia’s commercial practice encompasses disputes including contractual interpretation, professional negligence and directors’ duties.  Lydia’s employment work has a particular focus on disability discrimination but also incorporates all areas of tribunal disputes and high court action in relation to bonuses and restrictive covenants.

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Grahame Anderson

Grahame Anderson

Grahame is a barrister at Littleton Chambers and a member of Littleton’s Sports Law Group.  In addition to sports law, he specialises in employment and commercial work.

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