Webster ANP 2500

How Andrew Webster breached his contract without sporting sanctions

09 March 2020
Scottish professional footballer Andrew Webster was the first player to successfully invoke Article 17 of the FIFA Transfer Regulations, which enables a player aged under 28 to terminate his contract after three years (and older players to leave after two years) without facing sporting sanctions.

How it unfolded

Webster joined Heart of Midlothian in 2001 and signed a new four-year deal in 2003 with the Scottish side. As the defender played very well and became a national team player, Hearts opened negotiations for a new contract. Between January and April 2006, Webster turned down several offers from the club as they did not meet his expectations.

Hearts appeared to be forcing Webster to accept a new contract by surprisingly not selecting him for several matches. The club owner even made statements that he would put Webster on the transfer list.

Upset by his club’s behaviour, Webster sought advice from the Scottish player union and decided to unilaterally terminate his contract without cause in accordance with article 17 of the FIFA Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players. His termination occurred outside the so-called protected period of three years from the date he was employed by Hearts.

In August 2007, Webster signed a three-year deal with English side Wigan Athletic. Neither Webster, nor Wigan paid any compensation to Hearts for the transfer.

Hearts filed a claim at the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber asking for a compensation for the breach of contract without just cause by Webster and a suspension for Webster. The DRC decided that Webster breached the contract without just cause, and by that, had to pay a compensation of GBP 625,000, with Wigan being jointly liable. Both Webster and Wigan appealed the decision at the international sports tribunal CAS.

 

Decision

On 30 January 2008 CAS decided that Webster had to pay Hearts the value of the remainder of his contract with the club (GBP 150,000) plus interest. Wigan was jointly liable.

 

Why is this verdict so important?

Andy Webster was the first player to successfully invoke Article 17 of the FIFA Transfer Regulations. He only had to pay the rest-value of his contract and faced no sporting sanctions as the breach of the contract “was committed” outside the protected period.

 

Reaction

The Scottish players' union PFA Scotland supported Webster from day one in close cooperation with the FIFPRO Legal Department. PFA Chief Executive Fraser Wishart said: "Twelve years after Bosman, this is a new ground breaking decision."

 

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