Tools of the trade in football

Tools of the trade

What is meant by tools of the trade?

The concept of tools of the trade in sport is that an individual participating in a team sport will be able to be in control of the specific tools which he needs to adequately perform his trade. For example in football the specific boots worn by an individual player and also the gloves worn by an individual goalkeeper will be regarded as their tools of the trade.

Why is this an issue in the context of football?

This has become an increasingly important issue due to the huge amounts of revenue which comes into football through sponsorship agreements. For example the team kit will be manufactured by a specific sportswear brand. This same sportswear brand will also manufacture such things as football boots worn by players, but so will their competitors.

If players are free to choose the boots which they wear then this may produce the situation whereby players wearing the team strip manufactured by a certain company will also be wearing boots manufactured by their competitors.

The sponsorship of individual players

As players are deemed to be free to choose the tools of their trade there has developed an extremely lucrative market in player sponsorship whereby a specific company sponsors that player in order for the player to wear boots made by that company.

Would an international team be able to insist on the type of football boots worn by the players?

This is a situation which has occurred twice previously. Most recently this happened when it was stated that all players playing for the German national team would be required to wear adidas boots as the German team was sponsored by adidas. Any players refusing to wear these boots would not be able to be selected by the national team.

What are the potential legal difficulties with this kind of position?

Different legal issues will become apparent depending on whether the player decides to do one of the following:

  • Agrees with the proposal from the national governing body
  • Disagrees with the proposal from the national governing body

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For more information on:

  • Legal issues if a player agrees to the proposal
  • Legal issues if a player does not agree to the proposal
  • Has such a case ever gone to court?
  • What happened in this case?
  • How can this issue be solved legally?