Football Clubs Unable to Pay Players Wages

Football players’ wages

Disciplinary action

An individual football player may be deducted wages – often in the area of two weeks wages – for disciplinary reasons.

This is perfectly legal to do as a player will have been found to be in breach of his duties and obligations under his contract as a professional footballer and accordingly will be fined. Often this happens if a player has had some trouble in their personal life, for example, being involved in a fight in a night club.

Financial problems

When a football club is going through financial difficulties it may be unable to meet certain outgoings – inclduing the paying of the players’ wages.

This is a particular problem for clubs playing in the lower leagues of the Football League but has also occurred to Premier League clubs.

It is not legal for the club to do this as this is a breach of the employment contact that the players will have with the club. Football players are employees in much the same way as individuals working in any other industry and accordingly are subject to the same rights as any other employee in England and Wales under the Employment Rights Act 1996. One of the rights of an employee is to be paid.

Would a player be able to walk away from his contract due to not being paid?

A player would be able to terminate his contract with the club due to the material breach committed by the club in not paying him. However, it is not always likely that a player will do this.

Often when a football club is suffering financial difficulties and they are unable to play their players, the players will group together for the good of the club. In many instances it is therefore unlikely for players to simply walk away due to the fact they have not been paid their weekly wages.

A football player who does not show the solidarity for the club which he plays for when the club is in a difficult position may be unlikely to find another club if he simply walks away from his contract. This is due to the fact that he seems simply concerned with money rather than the love of the game. Footballers earn vast sums of money and although the situation of them not being paid on time is regrettable it is viewed as something which they can endure until the club secures a better financial position.

If a club misses the payment for the players’ wages will the players receive this eventually?

It is likely that if a club misses a weekly payment for the players’ wages that the players will eventually receive this payment.

For example a high profile Spanish club when the Presidency changed hands during June 2010 was unable to meet one weekly deadline for the payment of players’ wages. However, once the new President was able to get the house in order the payment for the players’ wages was met.

What happens if the club is not able to get its house in order?

If a club suffers such financial problems and looks as if it will go out of business, the usual course of action is for the club to go into administration. If a club goes into administration, assets, such as the training complex, will be sold to recoup money and thus pay off creditors.

When this happens to a football club the football players will be paid before any other creditors such as HM Revenue and Excise. This is termed the football super creditors rule and means that if a football club goes into administration the players’ wages will be paid as a priority over other non football related creditors.

Is there a body which will assist football players if the club is not able to pay their wages?

All professional footballs playing in the Premier League and Football League are represented by a body called the Professional Footballers’ Association (the PFA). If players have not been paid their wages they will receive assistance from the PFA to ensure that the matter is concluded in the interests of both the players and the club.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

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Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.