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Pay players or let them go

Jim Spence | 12:11 UK time, Sunday, 10 May 2009

Footballers not being paid their wages should be allowed to walk out and join a new club. No transfer window period should apply when the most basic right of an employee is breached.

Non-payment or regular late payment of wages should entitle a player to walk out on his club and go to any club that can offer him a job.

Artificial football restrictions like the transfer window should not apply. The rest of the working world accepts this as a fundamental right and our football players should have the same rights as the rest of us.

The Livingston players in a pre-match huddleAt the moment, if stories are to be believed, some Scottish players are being treated like chattels, having to stick with employers who treat them like nineteenth century below-stairs help.

If the current situation at Livingston is, as some players claim, one where they are regularly not being paid on time then a first-year law student knows that it constitutes a material breach of contract.

For the journalist, the plumber, the lorry driver, that situation would entitle them to walk away and take up new employment in their own trade where they can find it - and immediately.

Football, though, forgets that Bosman ever happened and continues to think that the laws of the land do not apply to it.

So players being paid late on a regular basis, although legally entitled to treat their contracts as broken, are artificially restrained from taking up paid employment at another club.

Like the rest of us, footballers have standing orders for mortgages and other bills. If they are not being paid on a regular basis, all sorts of problems are caused.

The footballing authorities need to adhere to the law of the land and do away with uncertainty in players' minds and, at the same time, bring recalcitrant clubs into line.

They need to protect the players by telling the clubs that the constraints of the transfer window (undoubtedly challengeable in law anyhow) will not apply where players have not been paid on time over a set period.

The prospect of players walking away without any compensation to the club failing to meet its legal obligations would concentrate the minds of club owners who do not honour their side of the wage bargain.

At the moment, the footballing authorities and the players' union appear to be of as much use as a chocolate watch in a fire.

It's time they took a stand to help our footballers. No wages, no contract, no player.


  • Comment number 1.

    Um, not really sure what this blog is about. Players can walk away if they're not being paid, or being paid late, because, yes, it is a breach of contract. They're perfectly entitled to consider their contracts broken and sign for another club, and at any time in the season (players not under contract at a club are not restricted by the transfer windows). There is nothing to stop it, which kind of renders this blog completely pointless?
    The problem for players at struggling clubs who are not paying the wages is that the vast majority cannot find another club. How many of the Livingston players are good enough to warrant a place in another comparable team's starting 11?
    Therefore, your argument makes no sense, and it's impossible for the players to have any power if they are not wanted elsewhere.

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm pretty sure a player's only allowed to join another club if they were out of contract at the point the transfer window closed. Any players who become "free agents" later than that have to wait until the next transfer window before they can sign.

    Hence any player who walked away from a club due to not being paid would have to wait up to 6 months before they could earn a wage again - not really a reasonable financial proposition for many on Scottish league wages. And certainly not a fair one as their unemployment would be no fault of their own.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    This is fair comment. Even at big clubs, it players weren't being paid they should be allowed to leave immediately. At smaller clubs, the players are not wealthy and have day to day economic affairs identical to regular working people. They shouldn't be made to wait for their wages without the opportunity to go elsewhere.

  • Comment number 5.

    As I have said on another thread this is just another foreign businessman coming in promising the world (he claimed he would make Livi the new third force in Scotland), then delivering nothing.
    There was a very similar thing that happened at Dens Park a few years ago and they ended up going bankrupt.
    All Mr Massone has done so far is tried to sell off anything he can. He claims that paying players late happens all over europe but the man is all fur coat and frilly knickers.
    Livi deserve much better

  • Comment number 6.

    Oh yeah, cos the bosman ruling was bloody brilliant was it ^o).
    I mean come on, the bosman ruling was probably the worst thing that happened to football in terms of transfers ever.

  • Comment number 7.

    I very much doubt that football managers are beating a path to Livingstone to sign their unsettled players. These guys probably regard themselves as lucky to have a contract and sometimes getting paid late goes with the territory. I'm sure they are free to withdraw their labour or walk away if they want to. But where else would they go?

  • Comment number 8.

    Another very important contractual principle is Due Diligence. Know who you are doing business with and research their reputation and history. If you cannot verify their ability to perform then don't sign or ask for a performance deposit. Any new business partner or contract - whether a new chairman or a TV channel overpaying for broadcast rights should be looked upon with extreme caution. Of course, in this case, the agents did due diligence for the players as part of their commission - which ironically, they were paid - UP FRONT!

  • Comment number 9.

    #1 Given that both Dundee and Well have offered cash for two Livi players (McKay & An Other) this week, then quite clearly Livi players can go get a job elsewhere. Another player had a cash offer rejected. Only 3 from a squad of 20 ish, but negates your point.

    More fundamentally, while the others can walk away arguing breach of contract in a legal sense as you say, they cannot sign for another club under FIFA rules until the transfer window opens again.

    Okay I'm kind of just expanding on #2, but #1 makes such a daft point that I feel it needs saying again.

    My bigger point is that while Jim's blog is not as well written as Tim Vickery's, funny as Robbo Robson's or insightful as Gavin Strachan's, I'm pleased the Beeb are giving us a relevant blog on Scottish football. Keep up the good work Jim, but we still need to get shot of that anachronistic half wit Chick Young.

  • Comment number 10.

    Re #6: So you'd agree with the premise that, whilst the player has no contract with the club, he's still not allowed to sign for another? In what sense is that fair or proper?

    Football needs to operate within the law - too many people in the game (clubs, owners, players, managers, and indeed fans) seem to think this isn't the case.

  • Comment number 11.

    Heres the problem, clearly football is just not any other profession (what other profession in the world are employees paid over £100K a week for effectively 90 minutes of work every week) and it cant have the same laws applied to it or it would break down.

    I agree that its unfair that these players are not getting paid but the danger is if they all get the ability to just walk away after a few late paychecks, the club collapses as they lose all their best players with the fans having to suffer with their team possibly going out of business. Bosman has already hurt smaller clubs and in my opinion there is a danger that if we keep down that road then soon players will just be able to leave their clubs with 2,3 weeks notice and without any transfer fee being exchanged. In a country like Scotland where the OF already hoover up the best talent, this would be a calamity.

  • Comment number 12.

    I see a similar sort of situation in my line of work (asset management), whereas upon the tenants' failure to pay rent on time results in interest being charged on payments outstanding over 7 days.

    This is a clause tied into their lease at a rate & time specifically requested by owners. It's hardly ever used, however; it is typically merely a scare tactic to prompt tenants into paying their rent on time.

    So why not tie these clauses into players' contracts? Interest payable to the player on top of outstanding amounts after a certain amount of time?

  • Comment number 13.

    If a footballer doesn't want to play for a club because he isn't getting paid then he has the right to walk out as the club are in breach of contract. But let's remember that these players should be playing for the love of the game, and are fortunate enough to make a living at something which they have loved doing since they were kids. Footballers make more than enough money to live on, therefore can afford to live without wages for a while, while still showing off their skills on the pitch which can hopefully get them a move to a bigger club

    If a player begins to see money as more important to him than the love of the game, then it's time he retired. Many players play in many amateur leagues with no pay, so the love of the game must always come above financial rewards

  • Comment number 14.

    For those suggesting players can walk out of clubs if they aren't being paid well yes technically they can but in order to sign for another club the original club needs to relinquish their registration of the player.

    So in this example if Livingston refuse to relinquish the registration of any of their players then there isn't much they can do.

  • Comment number 15.

    #11 Don't be ridiculous. These players aren't paid 100K/week, they earn more or less what a "normal" job would pay them. Hence they should be allowed to earn a living in another team if they are owned wages.

  • Comment number 16.


    Do you really think that lower league scottish footballers earn that much? I doubt they earn the thousands a week that is normally associated with a footballer. Top level footballers make the money, but your non league/lower leageu players live with wages like the "average" man on the street, so not getting paid on time can have huge consequences.

    Their registrations wouldn't be relinquished, so they wouldn't be able to get other employment, and this is wrong.

    My worry is that it could be exploited somehow for players to engineer their ways out of clubs.

  • Comment number 17.

    #15 Did you actually read my post? Clearly Im aware that the guys in lower leagues are not millionaires, my point was that they are in a job which is unlike any other profession (how many jobs are there where employees can be on 100K per week for basically 90 mins work? Or where the average retirement age is mid thirties?) and thats why they cant be treated like a plumber, accountant, office worker etc.

    Again, something does need to be done to help these guys if there not getting paid on time but if they are allowed to walk out after a few late wages then the club will be in real trouble. If Livi lose Griffiths for nothing as he was paid late a few times they would be losing out on a hundreds of thousands of pounds transfer fee that could go a long way and may even help to pay the rest of the players. If there top players are allowed to walk away it will place more strain on the club with the fans having to suffer.

  • Comment number 18.

    I have to say I'm not a great follower of football in Scotland, but this intrigued me, so I found FIFA's rules on the point of termination of contract.

    FIFA does seem to recognise the problem of non-fulfulment of contract terms, Article 14 (pg 13):

    "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.",

    yet seems to restrict this right to a period outside of the season in Article 16 (pg 13):

    "A contract cannot be unilaterally terminated during the course of a

    My understanding on this evidence is that the problem is not the transfer window in itself, rather the rule that doesn't allow players to terminate their contract "unilaterally" during the season. In other words, players who are out of contract can sign for clubs outside of the transfer window, it's just that the players in question here can't get out of their current contracts until the end of the season, under Article 16. This is quite different from the Bosman issue (where out-of-contract players were previously restricted by clubs owning their registration).

    The question in my mind would be, for players at clubs on a level where they might not be able to afford to pay wages, would they want to terminate a professional contract anyway? I guess a lot of them are probably simply happy to have professional contracts (they're won't be many Kakas with a billionaire Sheik offering them £100,000 a week!), and the alternative would be working on a bulding site. I suspect this is the real ball and chain of the lower league footballer, rather than FIFAs regulations.

  • Comment number 19.

    If you can't afford to pay the wages you promise a player, whose fault is it when the wages are late? No employee asks at a job interview if the company can afford to pay him or if he'll be getting his paycheck late every other month. Not if he wants the job.

    Not paying on time is illegal. It's illegal because of the hardship it causes people, who could lose homes, have utilities cut off or become unable to pay for basic necessities like groceries.

    If the club can't afford to be in existence, then you have to look at the people who got it into that position. But you can't ask someone to work for nothing when he has bills to pay.

    Livingstone players clearly aren't earning the money of Carlos Tevez or Ferndando Torres. They are probably earning the same kind of money we are, and which of you can afford for your companies to skip paying you once in a while? You'd be fine with losing your home or having your electricity cut off if it meant saving the company you work for?

    No football club has a god-given right to existence if the owners have stupidly taken on more than they can afford or the fans don't turn up in numbers that can sustain a football team, club staff and pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the grounds and stadium.

    What seems to be the attitude from too many people is it's okay to stop paying footballers in lower divisions when times are tough because people like Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney earn millions a year in the English Premiership. No it isn't okay to stop paying people their wages, especially when they need to pay their mortgages, rent and utilities the same as the rest of us.

    This blog is bang on, and if a player has to walk because he isn't being paid on time, then he should be allowed to sign for any club who'll take him. And anything that gives a chairman pause when he's signing a player he can't afford can only be a good thing.

  • Comment number 20.

    What they should do is have a mandatory clause in all contracts saying that if certain conditions are not met (ie wages not being paid) the player will be available at market value of which 80% goes to his club and the player pockets the 20% as compensation, obviously you then have to convince FIFA to allow this kind of transfer to happen outside transfer windows. The threat of this (as someone alluded to earlier) should mean clubs would be very careful about their wages, and also because the players would get 20% maybe the clause is only active after 4 missed payments (1 month).. something to think about??

  • Comment number 21.

    Unlike for the majority of people in this country, players have a contract negotiated for them by lawyers & agents. Look at all the restrictions on fines & discipline the clubs have to deal with, so Im sure that the contracts are quite clear on a breach by the club. As for the problems joining a new club, my contract prevents me from working for a rival company for 6 months after I leave.

    So if youre looking for sympathy, you can find it in the dictionary!

  • Comment number 22.

    I agree completely that football must live within the laws of the land and that standard employment law should govern their contracts. I do feel, however, that there are many other facets of "normal" employment that aren't exercised within the game. For instance, when was a player last under a "performance management" scheme, whereby, if they were unable to meet an acceptable level of performance, they would be eventually sacked. Some players (admittedly not in the SFL) take huge salaries then perform well below the standard expected for someone on earning said salary. In business they would be sacked rather than moved to the subs bench to sit out their 4 year, multi-million pound contracts. Similarly, players with long term injuries who are given support and wages during their recuperation. If they worked for a bank and were unable to work for a certain period of time they would simply be released.

    If footballers want the same employment conditions as Joe Punter, then their employers would be well within their rights to treat them the same way as posties, contact centre workers etc.

    Too bad, so sad.

  • Comment number 23.

    I stand corrected and clearly am a bit of a dip-stick who should have researched a little before posting. Appologies to the writer! lol

    I was right that players can walk away any time though if their contract is breached, so i'm desperately clinging to that.

    Also, in the conference players are not restricted by the transfer window, and that's about the same standard as the SPL, so maybe Livingston's players could use that as a basis for a legal case?

  • Comment number 24.

    "performance management"
    if they were unable to meet an acceptable level of performance, they would be eventually sacked. Some players (admittedly not in the SFL) take huge salaries then perform well below the standard expected for someone on earning said salary.
    I agree that.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hi Jimmy, Bob and Saara here from sunny Sheff. What do you think about the Wembley game on Monday?. We remember being the only 2 English people in the pub with you when Scotland and England played. Saara's first visit to Scotland!!!

  • Comment number 26.

    I worked at the Livi stadium in the kitchen for 4 months and wasn't payed once on time in fact every month my pay came in later and later sometimes in cash sometimes in my bank on the month i left i was payed 13days late and every day after pay day i was told I'd be payed tomorrow the players did threaten a strike but nothing came of it i think the owners should just move on the stadium its self is run by a bunch of clowns at the moment and they need to go otherwise Livingston may not have a team much longer and it would be a shame to see them go.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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