The football transfer that wasn’t to be – the unfortunate case of Mauricio Pinilla and the importance of having sports-specific legal solutions
In January 2019, the San Miguel Court of Appeal overturned a decision of the San Miguel Labour Court that ruled Universidad de Chile (La U) must pay 460 million pesos (approximately $685,000) to Chilean footballer, Mr. Mauricio Pinilla, for unfair dismissal.
It’s an interesting case because it is the first time that a Chilean court has ruled - using only Chilean labour law and not FIFA’s rules - on the termination of a footballer’s employment contract.
This article reviews the case, highlights the most relevant issues, and offers the author’s thoughts on the potential effects of the ruling going forward. The main issue, in the author’s view, is how the current domestic labour laws might fail (in an unintended way) to protect arguably the most vulnerable party in the proceedings: the athlete.
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Pablo Mettroz Holley
Abogado, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez
Pablo Mettroz is a lawyer graduated from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, and works at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez. With experience as an in-house lawyer in a football club and in the insurance market, he is partner of sports law specialised firm Mettroz y González and has recently joined the Football Federation Anti Doping Comission Board.
It was nice reading this article. Well done, Pablo!
On the issue of the matter having been submitted to the regular court (as is permissible, being an employment matter and not, strictly speaking, a football matter), item 3 of the Court of Appeal's reasoning is significant -
"When it comes interpreting Chilean Labour Law, it is irrelevant how federative and economic rights are transferred from one club to another. The case was all about a domestic employment contract and how it was ended before time."
I like your analysis in relation to the specificity of sports matters - that there are several acts to be completed before a transfer is considered finished. It makes me want to ask - for practical purposes, which contract should be (completely) executed first - the transfer contract or the employment contract?
Also significant is where you pointed out that there needs to be clarification regarding the obligation or otherwise of the new club to hire the player. So, does the non-hire of the player make him a free agent? What happens with the economic rights of a player where a subsequent club decides to sign him (would Colon be entitled to any compensation)?
Finally, your conclusion no. 3 sums it nicely - the need for specialised Sports Arbitration Tribunals.
Dear Kelvin, thank you very much for your words and for your questions.
Between the execution of the transfer contract or the employment contract, at least according to Chilean law, I would manage so that the effects of the former would be tied to the condition of signature of the latter.
The bond between a club and a player is given by the signature of an employment contract. According to the tribunal, he was no longer a La U player under Article 152 bis I of Labour Code. Also, Mr. Pinilla never signed an employment with Colón because they never agreed terms (Colón never paid the agreed fee to La U, by the way). Last Summer, Pinilla signed as a free agent with the recently promoted side, Coquimbo Unido. If Colón were to complain to someone it would be against La U, which failed to transfer them Mr. Pinilla's federative and economic rights.
That makes sense! Thanks for sharing.