The Court of Arbitration for Sport, headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland (‘CAS’), has definitively sided with a footballer in a case involving unpaid wages and threats of police harassment from his club. Represented by Manleys Solicitors, this internationally acclaimed footballer successfully sought to end his contract and claim damages. The CAS, following an intricate appeal, has ruled that the player was justified in terminating his contract, compelling the club to provide him with substantial compensation.
A highly accomplished footballer, known for his scoring abilities in top European leagues, was represented by Manleys. His move in January 2021, initially hailed with great fanfare, quickly turned problematic as he faced repeated non-payment from the country’s most renowned club, a consistent contender in European football including the Champions League. His objections to this non-payment led to a demotion to the U21 squad. With backing from a top European agent, the player remained firm in his stance; the situation further escalated. He recounted to the CAS how club officials demanded he sign a contract variation in a language he did not comprehend. His refusal led to a fine and, shockingly, he was later threatened with police action, prompting his departure from the country. The club contested these allegations.
The player exited the country hastily, concerned about his safety and potential prevention of his departure by local authorities. Once secure, he, along with his agent, sought the services of Manleys to terminate his playing contract.
After a victory at FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber, the club escalated the case to the CAS, demanding compensation for the lost transfer fee.
Manleys appointed Steven Flynn, a leading sports barrister in the UK from Kings Chambers and 2 Temple Gardens, celebrated for his successes at the CAS, for the appeal. Flynn was joined by Rosie Knight, an upcoming star in sports law (Kings Chambers).
The club’s appeal queried the legitimacy of the player’s decision to leave the country and end his contract without notice. They cited the contract’s requirement for a 14-day notice to address issues, or alternatively, a 15-day notice as per FIFA RSTP for wage-related terminations. They claimed rights to compensation for the loss of the player’s registration, adding his new club to the CAS proceedings.
Utilising a nuanced blend of Swiss law, as applicable at the CAS, the club’s national law, and past CAS verdicts, the player successfully contended his right to terminate for just cause. Although Swiss law underscores the importance of notifying an employer in advance, the CAS did not deem it an absolute necessity in cases of just cause termination. The CAS concluded that the player had adequately informed the club of the contract breach by discussing the issue of unpaid wages. It also dismissed the club’s assertion that they could demote the player to the U21 team. The club’s overall behaviour justified the player’s decision to end the contract.
The substantial CAS ruling ordered the club to pay the player’s outstanding salary until termination, compensate for his lesser earnings at the new club, and an additional three months’ salary due to the termination related to unpaid salary. The club was also made responsible for the costs.
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.”