One USL club’s player contract contains ‘at any time’ termination clause
Over the course of the last several years, the U.S. Soccer Federation created an impetus among the leadership of the USL to bring every club into compliance with every FIFA guideline regarding player contracts. As of the end of the 2017 season, USL clubs were more consistently and completely adhering to FIFA guidelines than clubs in the NASL or MLS. The USL made a strong commitment to meet FIFA standards for all player contracts in the league’s effort to be recognized as a sanctioned Division II league by the USSF.
With this background, it comes as a surprise that one USL expansion club has a contract addendum that not only doesn’t meet FIFA guidelines, but seems to undermine the long-term spirit of the way the USL has handled player contracts.
The player contract for the USL expansion side obtained by Soc Takes includes the following language applicable to players with semi-guaranteed deals as an amendment to the standard USL player contract:
“Semi-Guaranteed Player Status: Except as specifically set forth in Section I.B. below, and for the complete avoidance of doubt as it relates to all sections of the Player Agreement (including, but not limited to, Section 1, 16, 18 & Addendum B), Player further agrees and acknowledges that (name redacted) may terminate Player Agreement at any time during the term of the Player Agreement in the Club’s sole discretion. In the event of an early termination of the Player Agreement, Club agrees to pay Player the pro-rata amount of salary due to him as of the date of the termination and shall be under no further obligation to provide any additional compensation (including, but not limited to housing, insurance, etc.) except as specifically required by law (e.g., COBRA insurance coverage, etc.).”
Our understanding is that this clause is not being introduced league wide and not being used as addendum to other player contracts with expansion teams in the league. However, it is possible if the club has success in implementing this clause, other USL teams looking to cut costs and depress wages might follow. It also could serve as an example of the type of cost-cutting player contract addendum we might see in other U.S. professional leagues.
Through the years, the USL has made an effort to ensure professional players are in professional environments. Not long ago, many players — if not most — outside Major League Soccer were often found holding down second, third and even fourth jobs just to make ends meet.
These days, many players can survive during the season on their USL salaries alone. But now, perhaps given the diminishing revenues across the lower divisions, austerity might begin to reign again in terms of player salaries.
In response to this report, a USL official responded with the following comment:
“The USL has invested heavily in player standards over the years, and its Compliance Department closely monitors these issues across the league to ensure we meet USSF and FIFA regulations. This addendum issue was an isolated occasion with a new expansion club that mistakenly included non-compliant language to their player contracts. As soon as they learned of this issue, the Compliance Department moved quickly to work with the club and ensure these contracts were nullified, and new compliant contracts were executed with the players prior to the new season. The department also reached out to every club in the league, reemphasizing that all contracts are guaranteed by FIFA regulations, and such addendums are not acceptable.
We are committed to upholding player standards across the USL, and we take very seriously our compliance with U.S. Soccer Federation and FIFA player contract regulations. Our team works hard to ensure all the league’s clubs maintain the highest standards, and we continue to build upon that.”
Follow Kartik on Twitter: @kkfla737.
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