Every soccer player desires to play for the best team in the world. However, to get to the top, they often start by playing for other clubs and building themselves in anticipation that their dream club will come for them someday.
Armature soccer players often take steps to secure club contracts including participating in college soccer, enrolling in a soccer academy, enrolling in a youth team, and so on.
Before a soccer player can play for a club, both parties need to agree on some terms and conditions including but not limited to wages and how many years the soccer player will play for the club.
As long as the contract lasts, the player is expected to keep to the terms and conditions they agreed to in the contract. Well, what if the club is not keeping its part of the bargain?
We have seen several instances where a player signed a 3 to 5 years contract with a club and ended up warming the bench for most of the season. It is hard for soccer players to grow and hone their skills if they don’t get adequate playing time.
But, can soccer players tear their contracts to shreds if they are no longer happy with the club? Are there consequences that a player will face if they breach their contract?
If you feel like your contract with your current club is a mistake and you want to get out of it by any means possible, read our opinion before you make your next move.
Can a soccer player break a contract?
Player power over their club is limited which explains why some players often feel like they are slaves to their club. This feeling often comes from a combination of factors including playing too many matches without breaks or preventing them from visiting their families for important events.
On their part, the club usually justifies how they treat their players by the large wages they payout to them. But, can a soccer player break a contract when he/she wants?
Well, breaking a contract is a delicate topic and the answer can be a yes or no depending on surrounding circumstances. However, in most cases, players cannot break a contract without a backlash.
The 1995 European Court of Justice ruling (now famous as the Bosman ruling) made it possible for a soccer player to move to a new club at the termination of their contract without the payment of a transfer fee to their former club.
The implication of the Bosman ruling on the freedom of movement for workers meant that soccer players can enter a pre-contract with another club as a free agent six months or less before the expiration of their existing club contract.
Following the landmark Bosman ruling, FIFA also updated its transfer rules in Article 14 of the Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP). In the FIFA updated transfer rules, players can unilaterally terminate their contract based on ‘just cause’.
Interestingly, FIFA did not clearly define what it means as ‘just cause’. However, some of what we understand as a just cause that will allow a soccer player to terminate his or her contract include;
- Failure of the club to pay the player’s wages for several months
- Cutting the wage of the player through a unilateral decision
FIFA also made a provision for a player to unilaterally terminate his or her contract based on ‘sporting just cause’. This simply means the player has featured in less than 10% of official matches by the club in a season.
Apart from these two reasons, if a player decides to unilaterally terminate his or her contract, the player will have to pay compensation to the club according to FIFA’s Article 17. In addition to the monetary sanctions, players that break their contract can be banned from participating in official matches for up to 6 months.
Nevertheless, FIFA Regulations provide a ‘protected period’ in a soccer player’s contract. According to the ‘protected period’, if a player enters a contract before 28 years, they can buy themselves out of their contract after playing for 3 years or 3 seasons, whichever comes first.
For a player that is above 28 years when they entered the contract, that number is reduced to 2 years. The consequences of unilaterally terminating a contract by a player are as follows;
- If a player terminates a contract based on ‘sporting just cause’, there will be no sanction against the club and the liability for any damages will be on the player.
- If the termination based on ‘just cause’ is within the protected period, the club may be sanctioned and be liable for damages
- When the termination within the protected period is without ‘just cause’, the player may get a sporting sanction and will be solely liable for damages
- Lastly, if the termination is without just cause and outside the protected period, there will be no sporting sanction on the player. However, the player will still be liable for damages.
How to get out of a club soccer contract?
Obviously, any soccer player can unilaterally terminate their contract and damn the consequences. However, we believe that you are asking this because you are looking for a way to terminate your contract without attracting sanctions.
Players will rarely think about terminating their contract if they are happy with the club. This thought will mostly start creeping in when the player is unhappy with the club.
It’s usually difficult to make a rational decision when you are angry. However, there are ways you can get out of a club soccer contract without making news headlines and we are going to tell you all about them.
Allow the contract to run out
Since the Bosman ruling, we have seen an increase in players exercising their right to play for other clubs by refusing to sign contract extensions—especially when there is a wage dispute.
For example, following an unresolvable difference with Arsenal FC head coach Mike Arteta, Aubameyang refused to renew his contract. Subsequently, he signed a 3½-year contract with Barcelona at the expiration of his contract with Arsenal.
He did not get any monetary or sporting sanctions and seems happy with his new club. If you can, patiently endure and wait for your contract to run out. Then, you can move to a new club without getting the hammer.
This method of getting out of a club soccer contract mostly happens when the player is not satisfied with the club management. Players who are happy with their club will rather choose the next option.
It is OK to reach out to your club management and work out a contract termination based on mutual agreement.
Unlike refusing to sign a contract extension, termination based on a mutual agreement is usually the first choice of players that are satisfied with their clubs but have to leave for one reason or the other.
Recall that in Euro 2020 Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest during a game between Denmark and Finland. Prior to that incident, he played his club soccer with FC Internazionale.
Due to his cardiac arrest, Eriksen had to get a life-saving cardioverter-defibrillator device (ICD) to prevent a reoccurrence. Sadly, the use of this device is prohibited by Serie A.
Consequently, FC Internazionale Milano reached a mutual agreement with Eriksen leading to the termination of his contract. He had spent only one year at Internazionale before the incident.
Just cause or sporting just cause
As outlined in FIFA Articles 14 to 17 a player can unilaterally end his or her contract with a club within the protected period for a just cause or sporting just cause without being penalized.
For example, if the club should decide on their own to implement a pay cut without involving the player, the player can end the contract without being sanctioned.
Likewise, a player that is owed months of wages can end the contract. All these are just causes for unilaterally terminating a contract according to FIFA’s Article 14.
Also, if for one reason or the other the coach fails to feature you in up to 10% of all official tournaments the club will be participating in a season (even when you have been registered for such competitions), you can terminate the contract on the grounds of sporting just cause.
We have seen coaches visibly show their grievance or distaste for a certain player on and off the pitch. Sporting just cause is clearly outlined in FIFA’s Article 15.
If you want to terminate your contract based on sporting just cause, you can only do this 15 days after your club’s last official match for the season.
Even though it is possible to get out of a contract, it is not always easy or without some form of animosity. That is why you should always be careful before putting your pen on paper for any soccer club.
It is always exciting to have a soccer club come for you after spending years playing on the streets. This is particularly the case for young soccer players who think they will lose the opportunity if they try to negotiate.
Some soccer clubs understand the desperation of young soccer players and will be quick to exploit it. So, in addition to thoroughly reading through your contract terms, make sure you know your rights as a soccer player.
Learn everything you need to know about ‘just cause’ and ‘sporting just cause’. You may need that as a good excuse to break free from a toxic contract.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!