Verbal Offers of Contract to Football Players

Football Players under contract

When a football player is signed by a football club, under FIFA Transfer Regulations they must sign a contract with that club.

What is the maximum period a footballer can sign with a specific club?

The maximum period of time that a footballer can sign with a specific club will be for five years.

What does it mean for a footballer to be under contract with a specific club?

When a footballer is under contract with a specific club this means that the only club which they are able to represent in association football matches is that club. The player will be paid a weekly wage for his services to the club and will enjoy other such benefits such as playing and performance bonuses.

The club will also have certain other benefits in that player being contracted to the club, such as the use of the player in certain promotions and in line with certain sponsorship deals.

When will a footballer be required to sign a contract with a football club?

A football player will be required to sign a playing contract with a football club in one of the following scenarios:

  • When a youth player has come through the ranks at a club and they have reached the age whereby they are able to sign a professional contract
  • When a player has moved to that club – whether on a free transfer or following the payment of a transfer fee
  • When a player contracted to the club is offered a new contract by that club

When can a footballer be offered a new contract?

A footballer can be offered a new playing contract by their club at any time during their time with the club regardless of how many years they still have left on their already existing contract. If a player’s contract is coming to an end and the club wishes to retain their services then they will make an offer of a new contract to that player. However, it will often occur that a player has performed so well that the club may decide to provide them with an improved offer of a contract.

Why would the club wish to do that?

If a player has performed well this will not have gone unnoticed by other football clubs who may want to sign that player. If the club who the player is contracted to wants to ensure that they keep the player happy they want to offer the player a new contract that they feel reflects his growing stature as a football player and is alongside what he may be offered by other clubs.

When can a player under contract with one club move to another club?

When a player is under contract with one club he can only move to another club when that club makes a monetary offer to the club to which the player is contracted. The player can only move if this offer is accepted by the club. This is the case under the FIFA Transfer Regulations.

Does a verbal offer of a contract to a player constitute a fully binding contract?

In a recent case involving an FA Premier League football club it has been held that a verbal offer of a contract does not constitute a legally binding contract.

How did this case come about?

The Premier League club which was involved in this case wished to make an offer of a new contract to a young player who had come through the youth ranks of the club and was coming to the end of his first professional contract. The club spoke to the player verbally and stated that they would be making an offer of a contract on improved terms which the player himself felt that he would sign if presented with the contract.

Unfortunately the club never made the offer in writing and all that remained was the verbal offer made to the player.

What was the outcome of the case?

The case was taken to an independent hearing where it was held by the Football Association Premier League that the verbal offer made to the player did not constitute a fully binding legal contract.

Accordingly this meant that the player was no longer under contract with the club and under the FIFA Transfer Regulations, following the decision in the Bosman case, the player was able to move to another football club for free.

Why did the player wish to move to another club?

The player took the decision to move to another club as he was within his legal rights to do so under the FIFA Transfer Regulations but also as it seemed he was no longer valued by his original club. The fact that the club had failed to put the offer in writing before his contract expired seemed to suggest that he was not valued by his original club whereas he would be by a new club which was prepared to make him a good financial offer.

Has the original club appealed the decision?

The decision of the independent tribunal is one which is able to be appealed by the original club. They were given 14 days to do so following the original decision.

Is there anything else which the club may be able to claim form?

Following the player’s movement for free it is felt that the original club may seek some form of training compensation – under FIFA Regulations – as the original club trained the player from a young age and so should be compensated if he can move for free.