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Working conditions of professional footballers in Central America are alarming, with some players signed up to illegal contracts or even playing for free.

At FIFPro Division America’s legal conference in Peru, lawyer Erick Ovalle raised the issue, saying that football federations and clubs in Central America fail to comply with FIFA regulations, allowing the mistreatment of many players.

Ovalle said that in Central America only professional footballers in Costa Rica have signed labour contracts. In the other countries all players have self-employment or civil contracts, which lack adequate protection of players’ rights and do not include provisions on social security, insurance, pensions, working hours, days-off or holiday payments.

Ovalle also noticed a shocking absence of federation supervision in the region, resulting in clubs using prohibited contract lengths (6 years or 8 months) or federations lacking mandatory regulations on the status and transfer of players. Costa Rica is the only country with such regulations, contrary to other countries with professional football leagues such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

In Guatemala, Ovalle was informed about the case of Nathan Garcia Sandovalen, who signed a contract with CD Sayaxche stating that he plays for free. His contract, much to Ovalle’s surprise, was approved by the football federation of Guatemala.

In reaction to Ovalle’s presentation, FIFPro America called on FIFA to keep a close watch on their members, the football federations in these countries. FIFPro intends to continue developing player associations in countries such as Nicaragua and El Salvador to help tackle the aforementioned problems.

Training alone

Ovalle’s presentation was part of a two-day legal conference organised by FIFPro America for the fourth consecutive year. It was attended by representatives of many FIFPro unions from the Americas and Europe. Representatives of FIFA and various football federations were present too. Their presence also proved that the relationship between Division America and Conmebol federations is improving.

Various issues were discussed, including the new club licensing system in Peru (the first of its kind in Central and South America), leading CAS cases and the involvement of Peruvian and Spanish players in the decision making of their country’s federation.

FIFPro lawyer Alexandra Gomez discussed the problem of – what she called – labour hostility: clubs forcing players to adjust or terminate their contract, for instance by ordering them to train separately or with a youth team. “It is not only about paying the salary of the player, but it is also about other players’ rights, such as the right to work, meaning a right to train with a team and at the appropriate level, and compete (with an appropriate team)."

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Photo above: Erick Ovalle and FIFPro Division America President Fernando Revilla


See Related Documents for all presentations of Division America's Legal Conference