How do Footballer Contracts Work?
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How Do Football (Soccer) Contracts Work?

There is no doubt that footballer contracts have evolved in European football (soccer). Most notably, there are now more clauses included alongside salary and bonuses. Soccer players now have significantly more power in contractual situations. And agents play a much bigger part in the modern game.

Football (soccer) contracts can be confusing for fans of the sport. In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about them! We will answer questions such as how do football (soccer) contracts work and what are the different types of contracts that players can sign. So, if you’re curious about football (soccer) contracts, keep reading!

What is a Football (Soccer) Contract?

A football (soccer) contract is an agreement between a player and a club that sets out the terms of the player’s employment. The contract will specify things like the length of the contract, the player’s salary, and any bonuses or benefits that they are entitled to. It is important to note that players can only sign contracts with clubs that they are registered with.

what are football contracts?

What is the Purpose of a Football (Soccer) Contract?

Footballer contracts essentially mean that the club is in control of the player for the duration of the contract. This means the player cannot leave the club to play for another team unless a transfer offer is submitted by another club.

And the selling club accepts the offer. If the player’s team refuses to let them leave, there is nothing the player can do until the contract expires. Which then means the player would be free to discuss terms with any clubs. 

Players, unless approaching the end of their career, often sign long-term contracts (around 4-5 years). It would seem this would give the club power over the player.

Can a Football (Soccer) Player still Leave under Contract?

It’s not difficult to remember instances where players have simply handed in transfer requests, refused to play, and the club has surrendered and allowed a transfer to happen, even for star players. 

The risk of disrupting the team dynamic is an important reason for this. And if the player refuses to play, the club would be sitting on an asset. Which will be depreciating in value. 

The Purpose of Football (Soccer) Agents

Footballer contracts are complex and have many aspects. It is the footballer’s agent who negotiates contracts and looks to get the best deal for the player financially. Whilst also maximising the freedom and power of the player.

Football (soccer) clubs ensure they give the player the money that they want. But also that the player has plenty of time left on the contract at any point as this maintains their market value. 

Salary

The first and most important aspect of footballer contracts is the salary or wage. For footballer contracts, this is often expressed as the weekly wage, rather than the annual salary. The average wage in the Premier League is £61,000 per week (before tax). This has risen by over £10,000 in the last 2 seasons.

Showing the rapid growth in player wages along with growing transfer fees. The average player in Europe’s other leagues makes significantly less per week. This shows why the draw of the Premier League is so strong for all players.  

How do Football (Soccer) Clubs and Players Reach an Agreed Value?

It is very uncommon for footballers to take wage cuts. Unless they are older and approaching the end of their career and joining clubs at a lower level.

This means if a player is transferring to another club, their new wage will almost always be equal or higher than their previous wage. Especially if they are joining a Premier League club. It is similar to contract renewals.

As players approach the end of their contract, they will often re-sign with a higher salary representing inflation in the market. Becoming a more valued player, or simply persuading the player to stay with the club. 

Agent Fees 

Football (soccer) agents work for footballers and among other things, negotiate their contracts. Agents usually have a large number of clients, so represent a number of players at the same time. ‘Super agents’ are agents in the game who represent many of the most elite and valuable players. Those who are the top earners in the game.

One way that agents earn their money is through agent fees that are included in player contracts. It is usually a percentage of the player’s income, so the agent will negotiate the highest wage for their player. But also act in their own interests by trying to earn more commission.  

football contracts

soccer agents; bad reputation?

Super agents have somewhat of a bad reputation in the game. As they have been accused of causing trouble between players and clubs so that a transfer occurs, where the agent can make money through the commission of the transfer fee. As well as making more money via the higher wages a player could get at a new club. 

Bonuses

Even though the wages alone seem obscene in the modern game, there are almost always performance-related bonuses included in footballer contracts. For example, a common bonus for an attacking player is based on a target for a number of goals scored. Similarly, for defenders and goalkeepers, clean sheet bonuses are used.

competition bonuses:

Competition bonuses are also in many contracts, so if a team wins a cup, league, or qualifies for the Champions League, this will often trigger a bonus for players if this is in their contract. Not all bonuses are performance-based, however, as almost every contract includes an ‘appearance fee’. This is simply a bonus for every game the player plays.  

performance-related bonuses:

It may seem that bonuses are only beneficial for players, but the clubs can use performance-related bonuses to incentivise players and improve performances. Also, if clubs a struggling to afford a high wage for a player, they can use bonuses to ensure that they are only rewarding the player when the team is doing well 

Clauses

Alongside bonuses, footballer contracts also include a number of clauses. Clauses are different in that they aren’t necessarily related to finances, and they can include pretty much anything that is agreed upon by the player and the club.

‘match highest earner’ clause:

Some of the common clauses you see in footballer contracts are ‘match highest earner clause’. A key player in a team, someone like Messi or Ronaldo, may request to have this in their contract.

It basically means that if a club signs a new player, or renews a contract of an existing player on a higher wage than Messi, Messi’s wage would automatically increase to match the highest earner.

Other traditional clauses include a yearly wage rise, a wage increase based on number of games played, or a contract extension when a player plays a certain number of games in a season. 

The Release Clause 

One of the most common clauses is the ‘release clause’. For elite players, these are quite rare in Premier League footballer contracts, but are more common in the other European Leagues. A release clause is a pre-agreed amount in which another team can bid for a player, and the selling team is obligated to accept the offer.

For the player, this provides an element of freedom when entering into long-term contracts as they know that if a club is willing to pay a certain amount, they will have the chance to leave, even if the selling club doesn’t want them to go. This gives the club less power, of course, however, the release clause is usually a very large sum over the player’s market value.  

Spanish Football (Soccer) Release Clauses

In Spanish football (soccer), release clauses work in a different way. The player themselves must provide the money to the Spanish FA. The player would have to receive this money from the club wanting to trigger the clause, which then transfers this to the league officials.

There they sanction the termination of the contract and hand over the money to the selling club. An example of this was seen with Antione Griezmann in 2019, who left Atletico Madrid for Barcelona after they triggered the €120 million release clause. 

Thinking Ahead

Release clauses can also come into effect after certain situations. For example, there can be relegation release clauses, where if a club gets relegated, the clause comes into effect. Release clauses can also only apply to certain buying clubs.

If a player wants to ensure that his team doesn’t refuse him a move to a big club, the clause can be made to only apply to clubs in the Champions League, or even to specific clubs.  

 

Unusual Clauses

Astronaut Schwarz

Some clauses in football (soccer) players’ contracts are just plain weird. Upon joining Sunderland in 1999, Stefan Schwarz let slip that he would be interested in travelling into space one day, so the club put in a clause that banned him from going to space! 

Back then, it was believed that commercial space travel would be available within the next 5 years, which is why Sunderland felt the need to include this clause in his contract. Needless to say, I don’t think the clause had any effect on Stefan Schwarz’s lack of interstellar travel. 

Flights on the House 

Neymar’s contract with Barcelona included a clause which meant that a number of his friends from Santos could visit him every couple of months, with his club stumping up the money for their travel and accommodation. 

Former Barcelona President Rosell revealed that the club once paid $430,000 to fly Neymar’s entourage, the ‘Toiss’, over from Brazil in a private jet as part of the contractual agreement. 

Family Ties

This isn’t too uncommon though, as to prevent homesickness in foreign signings, there are often clauses in the contract which ensure the player is able to have family visit, or have opportunities to travel home.

A controversial part of AC Milan goalkeeper Gigi Donnarumma’s career was when, just a day after finally signing a new contract, the club also signed his older brother on what was seen as a very generous salary.

Although it may not have been an official contractual clause, Gigi and his agent obviously negotiated this contentious transfer as part of his new contract. Overall, this shows how multifaceted football (soccer) contracts are these days, which can seemingly include all kinds of crazy player demands.  

Conclusion

In the modern lucrative scenarior of football (soccer) contracts, this conversation was super-fascinating! It helps us to understand how the player’s maintain their exclusive lifestyles in the fast-cash-flowing sports economy!

That concludes our blog post on football (soccer) contracts! We hope that you now have a better understanding of how they work and what the different types of contracts are. If you have any further questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

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