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Louis Everard, managing director of the Dutch footballers’ association (VVCS), is warning all other FIFPro unions about practices in Eastern Europe. The FIFPro Board Member is advising all PFA’s to take their responsibility seriously during negotiations.

During FIFPro’s Lawyers Network meeting in Budapest, last week, Everard disclosed some of his recent experiences when negotiating players’ contracts abroad, especially in Eastern Europe.

The practices Everard described were shocking and controversial, but might also be considered ‘business as usual’ in some East European countries.

Among other examples, Everard described the negotiations between a player and a club from Eastern Europe. The VVCS is legally responsible for the footballer’s new contract. Initially everything went as normal. ‘Following intense negotiations, an agreement was reached with which the player was more than satisfied.’

However, Everard’s eyebrows rose when the club did not send a standard contract despite various requests from the Dutch union.

‘Only after the player had boarded the airplane with his advisor - one day before his official presentation at the club - did the VVCS receive a draft contract, stating that this needed to be signed the same day.’ 

That wasn’t easy, explained Everard, as he came across several strange regulations in the contract. Such as:

  • The agreed net salary was split into two parts: 10 percent was guaranteed, 90% was designated as possible incentive premiums and bonuses;
  • Incentives and bonuses are only paid in the event of good performance, to be determined by the club;
  • No contract guarantee during illness and/or injuries;
  • The FIFA DRC was deleted as competent court;
  • Penalties from 10% to 100% of salary and bonuses, everything to be determined unilaterally by the club management;
  • The club can reduce the level of the incentive premiums and bonuses during the term of the contract.

 

Naturally, Everard sent his remarks and comments to the club. The response came from a highly indignant lawyer and director: ‘Everybody else signed this contract and everybody trusted the club.’

Everard and the VVCS did not. After 13 hours of heated telephone negotiations and seven draft exchanges the two parties reached an agreement in the middle of the night. The player signed and enjoys his time at his new club.

Several weeks later, Everard received another remarkable draft contract from a club in Eastern Europe that had set its sights on a player who was represented by the VVCS.

‘That draft contract truly deserved the title bizarre.’

  • There was no sign-on fee in the contract, it was only a verbal commitment;
  • Net amounts turned out to be gross;
  • The player was banned from talking to other clubs or organizations without the club’s permission;
  • The contract included a three-month trial period;
  • If targets set by the club were not reached, the salary would be reduced;
  • The club was entitled to review the salary in the light of disappointing individual performances.

The contract even contained the following line, quoted literally: ‘If the club is no longer interested in the player, the contract can be terminated without any compensation payments to the player.’

Once again, the VVCS sent an e-mail with remarks and comments. The club reacted through the director, who was irritated. He had discussed the situation with the trainer, who replied: ‘Either he signs our standard contract just like all his colleagues or he looks for another club.’

And that is just what the player did... he found another club.

Everard also revealed that the VVCS had held tough negotiations in order to make sure that players' contracts were 100% guaranteed during the entire duration of the contract and also during illness and/or injury.

‘On the basis of the Dutch Collective Labour Agreement all players' contracts have this guarantee’, said Everard. ‘But during negotiations with clubs in Belgium, England, Germany and Portugal it appeared that this was certainly not standard in those countries.’

In Germany, it is standard that after six weeks of injury the player’s salary reverts to a type of social minimum. He has two choices: either he takes the risk or he insures himself. It took quite a lot of effort to get the 100% guarantee included in the contract but we were successful with that, as well as in the other countries mentioned.

Recently, FIFPro and its social partners ECA, EPFL and UEFA agreed to sign the Minimum Requirements for Standard Player Contracts that will come into force in 2012 in all 53 UEFA member countries. But Everard and the VVCS are looking further ahead, and they want more. ‘Experience teaches us that these Minimum Requirements for Standard Player Contracts are no more than a small first step. There is still a lot of work to be done.’

Finally, Everard advised his colleagues from all other unions: ‘The players’ associations have their own responsibility concerning the national collective labour agreement and the standard player’s contract. Also, it appears that, in practice, it is possible in almost all cases and countries to adjust the so-called standard contract presented to the player to an acceptable variant to the player's advantage.’