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The Swedish professional footballers association SFS has won an important case. Last week, the Swedish Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) decided that professional footballer Kennedy Igboananike had the right to terminate his contract with his club Djurgårdens IF because he had been banned to a youth team without a valid reason.

 

Kennedy Igboananike is a Nigerian striker who played several seasons for Djurgården, a Swedish premier league side. In both the 2010 and the 2011 season the young forward was the top goal scorer for 11-time Swedish champions Djurgården.

 

However, after the 2011 season Djurgården announced that a number of players were not needed for the 2012 season, amongst others Kennedy who still had a contract until the end of the 2012 season. The other players left, Kennedy stayed. He received offers from other clubs, but those were not satisfactory to him, due to sporting, social and economical reasons. He wanted to accept one offer – made by AIK, the crosstown rivals of Djurgården – but Djurgården did not want to transfer Kennedy to their rivals on principle.

 

Kennedy preferred to continue at Djurgården until a mutual acceptable transfer offer was agreed upon. But when the season began, the Djurgårdens management put him in the U-19 team where he remained for five months. During that time he was not allowed to train with the first team squad. In late June, Kennedy was ordered to return to the first team squad, he even played a couple of matches. Coincidentally, the 2012 summer transfer market opened shortly thereafter.

 

In January 2012, after he was banned to the U-19 team, Kennedy turned to the Swedish professional footballers association SFS for advice and legal help. The players union advised him to take his case to the national DRC.

 

‘It was a long process, much longer than we projected, but in the end we got the result we preferred’, explains Anders Jemail, legal advisor of the SFS. ‘The DRC recognized that Kennedy had the right to terminate his contract. Even though the contract between Kennedy and Djurgården did not specifically mention that Kennedy was entitled to train with the first team, the DRC decided that Djurgården had failed to present a legitimate football reason to put Kennedy in the U-19 squad and that such measure also put unfair pressure on Kennedy to accept offers to leave the club.’

 

‘We hope that this judgment has made it very clear to all clubs in Swedish professional football that this type of behavior is unacceptable. In recent history we’ve had a couple of players who have experienced similar treatment. They were banned by their clubs because of three reasons:

  • They refused to extend their contract
  • They refused to leave their club because they still had a contract
  • They had signed for another club (each player is allowed to sign a contract for the upcoming season within six months of the expiration of the current contract) 

 

With the decision of the Kennedy Case in hand, the Swedish footballers association hopes that all other clubs will now understand that they must present a very solid reason to ban a player from their first team.

 

Jemail: ‘I think it will be very difficult for any club to present a valid reason to ban a player from the first team to the level of an U-19 team.’

 

For Kennedy the DRC case lasted a bit too long. The DRC published its decision after his contract with Djurgården had expired. Legally Kennedy is entitled to start a civil case against Djurgården in order to claim financial damages. Jemail does not expect that the Nigerian striker - who recently signed a three-year contract with AIK - will choose that option. ‘The most important thing Kennedy coveted was that his legal right to terminate his contract would be recognized. I think Kennedy wants to put this case behind him and focus on his career, in order to do his utmost for his new club, AIK.’