The Court of Arbitration for Sport, located in Lausanne, Switzerland (known as ‘CAS’), has ruled conclusively in favour of a footballer who experienced unpaid wages and police harassment threats from his club. Manleys Solicitors represented the internationally recognised footballer in his pursuit to terminate his contract and seek damages. After an extensive appeal process, the CAS has now validated the player’s entitlement to end his contract, compelling the club to pay him considerable compensation.
Manleys took on the case of a prolific footballer, celebrated for his goal-scoring abilities in Europe’s elite leagues. His January 2021 transfer was initially received with great excitement, but it rapidly deteriorated as he astonishingly remained unpaid. This was from the most triumphant club in the country, a constant participant in European competitions, including the Champions League. The player’s protest against non-payment led to his relegation to the U21 team. Backed by one of Europe’s leading agents, the player stood resolute; however, the situation intensified. He informed the CAS that club officials tried to coerce him into signing a contract in an unfamiliar language. His refusal resulted in a fine, and astonishingly, he was later threatened with police intervention, prompting his departure from the country. The club disputed these claims.
The player left the country abruptly, fearing for his personal safety and potential interference by local authorities. Once secure, he, with his agent’s help, engaged Manleys to terminate his playing contract.
Following an initial ruling in the player’s favour at FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber, the club appealed to the CAS, seeking compensation for a missed transfer fee.
For the appeal, Manleys engaged Steven Flynn, a pre-eminent UK sports barrister from Kings Chambers and 2 Temple Gardens, known for his victories at CAS. Flynn was aided by Rosie Knight, a rising figure in sports law (Kings Chambers).
The club’s appeal revolved around the player’s right to exit the country and terminate his contract without prior notice. They argued for a contractual 14-day notice period to remedy any issues, or as an alternative, a 15-day notice under FIFA RSTP for wage-related terminations. They sought compensation for the loss of the player’s registration, implicating his new club in the process.
Defending his actions, the player cited a combination of Swiss law, applicable at the CAS, the club’s national law, and past CAS rulings. He successfully argued for his right to terminate the contract for just cause. The CAS, considering Swiss law’s emphasis on prior notice to employers, did not find it an absolute requirement for just cause termination. The CAS ruled that the player had sufficiently informed the club of the contract breach by highlighting the issue of unpaid wages. The CAS also dismissed the club’s argument that it was entitled to demote the player to the U21 team. The club’s overall conduct had put the player in a position where he could justifiably terminate the contract.
In its substantial ruling in favour of the player, the CAS ordered the club to pay his due salary up to the termination date, and compensate for his reduced earnings at the new club. Additionally, the club was directed to pay three months’ salary as extra compensation due to the salary-related termination. The club was also burdened with 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.”