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FIFPro and the Belgian trade union for professional footballers, ACV Sporta, are extremely critical of the way in which RSC Anderlecht – the current champion of Belgium – attempts to bind underage (minor) footballers to it. "You have to ask yourself whether this is ethically responsible."

At the end of November, Anderlecht announced that it would be going to court to claim damages from the parents of a sixteen-year-old youth player who is refusing to sign a contract with the Brussels club.

Four years ago, Anderlecht signed a so-called "surety undertaking" with the parents of Jason Eyanga-Lokilo, at the time a 12-year-old talent who played for the club's youth teams.

A "surety undertaking" is a clause whereby one contract party promises the co-signatory to ensure that a third party (absent or legally incompetent) shall do, give or refrain from doing something. The third party retains, however, the freedom not to commit himself, since he, as third party, is not bound by the clause to warrant performance.

In the case of Jason Eyanga-Lokilo, the contract party (his parents) promised to ensure that the third party (their son, youth player Jason Eyanga-Lokilo) would sign a three-year professional contract with Anderlecht on his sixteenth birthday. As remuneration for the promise, the parents received 75,000 euro. But the surety undertaking also states that if the third party does not comply (that their son does not sign the contract), the parents shall pay the other party (Anderlecht) the sum of € 450,000.

Jason Eyanga-Lokilo is now 16 years old and refuses to sign with Anderlecht. The club has subsequently announced that it will resort to the court in order to claim this aforementioned € 450,000 from the parents.

Both Sporta and FIFPro are very critical of the course adopted by Anderlecht. "You have to ask yourself whether this is ethically responsible," says Stijn Boeykens, secretary of ACV Sporta. "A surety undertaking is an agreement that belongs in the world of business, in civil law. Children are not a trade commodity. This type of agreement infringes every treaty about the rights of the child."

Boeykens continues: "We understand that clubs want to do everything possible to retain youth players and want to prevent them joining, for example, a club abroad. Since it is legally impossible to have a player sign a contract before his sixteenth birthday, the club tries to circumvent the law. RSCA now present very young children with legal contracts from 'civil law' and with enormous penalties. The club pays - for the club - a limited remuneration and in return imposes extremely heavy sanctions on the parents. This gives pause for thought. It is not ethically responsible."

The course of action pursued by Anderlecht, which, in addition to Eyanga-Loliko has also had other youth players and their parents commit to the club via a surety undertaking, is also questionable in legal terms.

First, such a clause does not allow any genuine freedom not to do what the parents undertake to do, considering the relationship of dependency between parent and (underage) child. For this alone, FIFPro considers the agreement subject to nullification.

Second, there is a FIFA rule that states that a club may only bind an underage player for a period of three years. By entering into an agreement with the minor at the age of twelve which commits him to his 19th birthday means that this player is bound for seven years. Thus the protection intended by FIFA by maximising commitments to three years becomes illusory. This again is reason in itself to consider the agreement of surety as it exists here to be invalid.

FIFPro Head of Legal Department, Wil van Megen: "We understand that clubs would prefer not to lose youth players to other clubs, but the course of action chosen by Anderlecht is really the wrong way to get young players to commit to the club. It seems unlikely that a judge will approve this method."