Sport is a huge means of revenue for both developing and developed countries. Sports law, has become an emerging aspect of law in Nigeria, even though it has not been very much recognized by sports men, especially footballers, who fall into the trap of going through various unsavory situations such as being owed salaries, and being badly adviced to sign for clubs without any pedigree, and some signing slave contracts. Sports law is a combination of laws that apply to athletes and the sports they play. It revolves around various legal matters, including contract, tort, agency, antitrust, constitutional, labor, trademark, tax issues, and so on.
This aims to discuss the need for Nigerian players to sign proper contracts with clubs, thereby protecting their interests, and pockets.
2.0 THE INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL SCENE
In Europe, the Bosman ruling, enabled football players to leave clubs within the EU without requiring a transfer fee. This means that players could decide to play down their contracts till the end and move clubs on a free, without payment of a transfer fee to the club. However, the club would most likely provide that the player gets a huge amount of money both as a signing-on fee and in wages. In light of this, FIFA decided to make various provisions protecting player contracts.
Article 13 states that a contract between a professional and a club may only be terminated upon expiry of the term of the contract or by mutual agreement.
However, in contrast, Article 14 provides that a contract may be terminated by either party without consequences of any kind (either payment of compensation or imposition of sporting sanctions) where there is ‘just cause’.
In terms of players being compensated after their contracts have been terminated, Article 17 provides that when a contract is terminated without just cause, the person in breach will have to pay compensation. When calculating the level of compensation, the law of the country concerned and the specific city of sport will be considered. Another criteria will be the player’s pay and benefits due under the existing contract and the new contract, the time remaining on the existing contract up to a maximum of five years, the fees and expenses paid or incurred by th former club and whether the contractual breach falls within a ‘protected period’.
3.0 THE NIGERIAN FOOTBALL SCENE
The Nigerian sporting scene is one filled with a number of irregularities without taking into cognizance the legal aspects to it. For example, most football clubs take on players from academies without the proper contractual “agreements” between the clubs and the players, thus meaning that the clubs do not own the players and can therefore lay no claim to the profits whenever a player is being sold. In Brazil, Pele’s law establishes that professional football players must enter into employment contracts with sports clubs that are in written form, specifying the names of the respective contracting parties and the due remuneration. By virtue of section 9(4) of the Nigeria Labour Act:
“No contract shall provide for the payment of wages at intervals exceeding one month unless the written consent of the State Authority has been previously obtained.”
It thus raises the question why professional footballers get owed month/years of salaries without being able to enforce payment of their salaries, as agreed initially. One of the reasons would be their inability to acquire the services of a lawyer, who would be able to secure a favourble contract on their behalf, with Nigerian football clubs.
The reluctance of clubs to pay off players whose contracts have been terminated is also a bug wonder, as provided for in section 11(7) of the Labour Act, which states that:
“All wages payable in money shall be paid on or before the expiry of any period of notice”
However, in Nigeria, most players are rarely paid their wages after being offloaded by their clubs and that is due to their inability to make sure they signed enforceable contracts. This has become a major problem for Nigerian players, who are thus unable to make ends meet.
In conclusion, it would be important for professional players, as well as clubs in Nigeria, to acquire the services of lawyers, in order to make the footballing environment comfortable for both club and players as well.