Can a professional footballer decide to play for free?

High profile salaries currently paid to footballers

Recently there has been much written concerning the vast salaries paid to professional footballers and the various bonuses which they receive from their clubs and also money from commercial deals.

Some of the professional footballers currently plying their trade in the Football Association Premier League are paid three times more than the British Prime Minister – this is a startling statistic when you put it into context.

Salary Cap

Many feel that the amount paid to footballers should be capped in the style of certain American and Australian sports to enable the competiveness of the league but also to keep much of the money generated by the sport within the sport rather than in the pockets of the players.

Situation where a football has decided to pay for free

Considering the current status of the game it is somewhat surprising that a footballer has agreed to play for an entire season for his club without receiving any form of payment.

Why has this situation come about?

The player of whom this situation concerns moved to his club in Italy at the beginning of the 2009/10 football season just experienced, however, within a couple of games for his new club he suffered an injury which was to rule him out for the entirety of the season.

The individual player initially signed a contract which ran from 2009 until June 2012, however, he has now signed a contract extension for another year ensuring his contract will run until 2013. This contract extension was done at the request of the player with the player deciding to insert the condition that he will receive no remuneration for this final year.

Is it legal to do this?

When footballers sign contracts with clubs for their playing services they will be required to sign a standard contract with applies to that league, for example players playing in England in the FA Premier League will be required to sign a standard FA Premier League contract. The same conditions will apply for players playing in Italy as this player does.

Within the standard contract there will be certain clauses and pay will of course come into it but there is no standard clauses on how much a player is paid. If a player opts to play for free it is clearly up to that player to make the decision.

Is it unfair of the club to accept this proposal from the player?

Some may feel that it is unfair of the club to accept this proposal from the player as if he is providing his services to them then he should be paid as is the case with all the players. However, this is done as a gesture of goodwill on the behalf of the player to repay the club for the faith that they have shown in him during his time when he was unable to play.

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For more information on:

  • Would this ever happen in any other employment context?
  • Will this case set a precedent in the footballing world?
  • Could a club refuse to pay a player who is injured or suspended for a long period of time?