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The role of federations in club-player disputes: by Wil van Megen, Director of FIFPro Legal Department.


In the employment relationship between a football club and a professional player it is common practice to have a disciplinary regime that includes sanctions if internal club rules are violated. The nature of possible sanctions can include, a warning, a financial sanction, suspension with or without pay and dismissal

In a substantial number of cases we observe that sanctions handed down by clubs are transferred to the national football federation so that they are extended to cover all professional football in the same country.

(See case study below involving FC Metalurg.)

Should the sanction be transferred?

It is normal procedure in a number of countries for a club to ask the federation to take over a suspension. This can happen even if no regulation of the federation has been violated.

However, there is no justification for the involvement of the federation because -- as with a regular employment dispute outside football -- the conduct that needs to be disciplined is related to the employment relationship.

The moment the federation gets involved the nature of the sanction changes. It is no longer a matter specific to the employer and the employee.

Legal objections

This is a one-way system: If a club infringes the contractual obligations there is no possibility for the player to ask the federation to sanction the club.

Employment law should by nature protect employees. However, under this one-way system, it is clear that the club’s position is stronger because it can involve the federation in the enforcement of a sanction.

If a federation follows its duty to take equal care of the interests of clubs and players -- and follow good governance -- it should not benefit clubs over players.


There is no reason for a federation to apply sanctions that are not part of their domain. This infringes the principles of employment law and is out of line with good governance.

A football federation should be responsible for the well-being of all stakeholders in professional football rather than acting as an interest group for clubs. 

Case Study    

Metalurg Skopje grijsFC Metalurg, a team from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), last year sanctioned seven players with 6-month bans for going on strike. The players refused to play because they had not been paid for four months.

The national football federation of FYROM subsequently approved their requests to have their contracts terminated. However, a couple of weeks later, the same federation adopted FC Metalurg’s ban for the seven players.

The players were therefore prevented from continuing their careers in FYROM until the suspension was over.


 Wil van Megen is head of FIFPro's legal department.


(Main photo credit: PicsUnited)