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Unilateral extension options in football contracts: Are they valid and enforceable?

Football goalkeeper on handshake background
Monday, 13 June 2022 By Tiran Gunawardena

Unilateral extension clauses (UECs) are contractual clauses that give one party to a contract the exclusive right to extend the employment relationship with the other party. Unlike reciprocal clauses - where both parties need to agree to the extension - UECs do not require both parties to consent to activating the clause. In the context of football, we often see UECs in favour of football clubs in employment contracts between players and clubs.

This article examines:

  • where and how UECs are used in football;

  • why they have proved to be controversial; and

  • what jurisprudence at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has said about the legality of such clauses.

The article will conclude by briefly contemplating whether, and how, UECs could be regulated going forward.

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Written by

Tiran Gunawardena

Tiran Gunawardena

Tiran Gunawardena is a Principal Associate (Australian Qualified) in the London sports law team at Mills & Reeve LLP. Tiran was selected by Who’s Who Legal: Sports and Entertainment as a leading sports lawyer in the UK in 2020, 2019 and 2018. Tiran is a regulatory sports lawyer specialising in international and domestic sports arbitration, with significant experience with proceedings before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and regulatory matters in sport. He is dual qualified as an Australian solicitor and chartered accountant, and holds a Master in International Sports Law from ISDE (Madrid). Tiran is on the Arbitral Board and Disciplinary Committee of the UCI, and is on the Formula One Cost Cap Adjudication Panel. Tiran is also an England Boxing and British Gymnastics Disciplinary Panel member. Prior to working at Mills & Reeve, Tiran spent almost 4 years working in the Corporate Tax and M&A team at PwC Sydney.

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