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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Manleys Solicitors Secure Major Win for Footballer at Court of Arbitration for Sport

The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland (‘CAS’), has reached a decisive verdict in support of a footballer who faced non-payment and threats of police intervention by his club. Represented by Manleys Solicitors, the footballer, with international caps, successfully fought for his right to end his contract and obtain substantial damages. The CAS, following a complex legal battle, upheld the player’s decision to terminate his contract, ordering the club to pay a significant compensation.

Instructed by Manleys was a renowned footballer, famed for scoring goals across Europe’s leading leagues. His January 2021 transfer, initially met with enthusiasm, quickly turned problematic as he faced astonishing non-payment from the country’s most successful club, a familiar name in European tournaments like the Champions League. His objections to the non-payment resulted in demotion to the U21 squad. The player, backed by a leading European agent, resisted; the situation worsened. He informed CAS about an incident where club officials coerced him to sign a contract in a language he didn’t understand, leading to a fine upon refusal. In an extraordinary turn of events, he faced threats from the club involving local police, causing him to leave the country. The club denied these accusations.

The player, fearing for his safety, departed the country unannounced, concerned about potential obstruction by local authorities. Having reached safety, he and his agent sought Manleys’ help to end his playing contract.

An initial victory at FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber was challenged by the club at the CAS, with the club demanding compensation for a lost transfer fee.

Manleys enlisted the expertise of Steven Flynn, a leading sports barrister in the UK from Kings Chambers and 2 Temple Gardens, noted for his CAS victories. Flynn was supported by the emerging legal talent, Rosie Knight (Kings Chambers).

The appeal by the club focused on whether the player was justified in leaving the country and terminating his contract without notice. The club argued for a 14-day notice period as per the contract, allowing them to rectify any issues, or alternatively, a 15-day notice under FIFA RSTP for wage-related terminations. They claimed entitlement to compensation for the loss of the player’s registration, implicating the player’s new club in the proceedings.

Using a mix of Swiss law, the club’s national law, and previous CAS decisions, the player effectively argued for his right to terminate the contract for just cause. While Swiss law highlights the need for forewarning an employer, the CAS determined this wasn’t an absolute must for just cause termination. The CAS found that the player had already notified the club of the contract breach by addressing the unpaid wages. The club’s argument of insufficient notice was deemed insubstantial. The CAS also negated the club’s right to demote the player to the U21 team. The club’s actions overall justified the player’s decision to end the contract.

The CAS awarded the player his unpaid salary until contract termination, compensation for his decreased earnings at the new club, and three months’ additional salary due to the salary-related termination. A costs order was also made against the club.

Steven Flynn, lead counsel before the CAS observed that, ‘This case was complicated by the different national laws and regulatory regimes engaged. The club sought to exploit apparent inconsistencies between the regimes to avoid responsibility for its actions. Thankfully we, as a team, were able to address the multi-jurisdictional issues and ensure that justice was done for player.’

Mark Manley, Managing Director at Manleys said: ‘I’m delighted for the player and his agent.  Our team couldn’t believe what we were hearing when the player recounted his ordeal.  He had been excited to join the most successful club in this country but it quickly turned into a nightmare.  His decision to flea the country was more akin to a James Bond’ movie than a footballing issue!  The player was one of the most impressive witnesses I have seen in Court.  His agent, Roberto De Fanti, was an incredible support to the player throughout this ordeal, as was his new club.  I’d like to thank them, my colleagues at Manleys, and Steven Flynn and Rosie Knight of Kings’ Chambers for their skills, expertise, tenacity and bringing a very successful conclusion to this long-running saga.  Our website boasts that “we are in the results business” – I’m very pleased for this client that he’s ended up a fantastic and emphatic result.”


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