Fifa looks to extend footballers’ contracts in coronavirus shutdown

Fifa is drawing up plans to extend player contracts until the

end of delayed domestic seasons and shift transfer window

dates, as global football responds to the coronavirus shutdown.

The sport’s international governing body is looking at how to

restructure the contracts of thousands of players and coaches

worldwide. It has also recommended that transfer windows —

when players can move between clubs — should be extended to

fit new season dates, according to a Fifa document seen by the

Financial Times.

Domestic football competitions have been paused due to the

global pandemic. Flagship tournaments such as the Euro 2020

Championships and Copa America, national team

tournaments in Europe and South America, have been

postponed until next year.

Many domestic leagues, particularly in Europe, want to extend

their seasons into the summer and beyond in the hope of

defending lucrative broadcast contracts that will go unpaid if

remaining matches are scrapped. But employment contracts

for many players expire on June 30, giving many the right to

move to other clubs for free after this date.

According to the Fifa document, a key proposal is that “where

an agreement is due to expire at the original end date of a

season, such expiry be extended until the new end date of the

season”.

Such a move would radically alter footballers’ contracts,

pushing back the end date or when they are likely to be paid.

Across Europe, the lack of income because of suspended

matches has been stretching club finances. Germany’s

Borussia Dortmund and England’s Leeds United are among

those to have agreed wage deferrals with players. Even Spain’s

FC Barcelona, the world’s highest earning club, is in talks with

its players over temporary pay cuts.

Fifa’s proposals suggest that to “ensure clubs do not

bankrupt”, they, players and coaches “work together” to agree

pay deferrals or cuts, but added: “Alternatively, all agreements

between clubs and employees should be ‘suspended’ during

any work stoppage . . . provided adequate alternative income

support arrangements can be found.”

John Mehrzad, a sports barrister at Littleton Chambers in the

UK, said on Twitter that these proposal would be

“unenforceable” in the English Premier League, the world’s

most valuable domestic competition, as they would be

tantamount to forcing footballers to play against their will.

Fifa declined to comment. But its internal document suggests

the organisation considers the pandemic a “force majeure”

event that prevents current contracts from being fulfilled. Its

top executives will discuss the proposals further next week,

hoping to gain agreement for the plan.

The Financial Times

Limited 2020.

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