‘They cannot be forced’ – Leading sports lawyer confirms out-of-contract PL stars have power to walk away from clubs this summer

A leading lawyer in the sports world has today assured that, no matter the potential measures set to be introduced by Fifa in a bid to prolong the COVID-19-ravaged season, Premier League players tied to expiring contracts will possess the means to simply walk away from their current clubs on the 30th of June.

Football grinds to a halt

The worldwide COVID-19 outbreak has of course been headline news across the globe for some time now.

As of this afternoon, over 1.6 million people have tested positive for COVID-19, of whom almost 100,000 have sadly passed away.

The scale of the outbreak has inevitably also had major ramifications on the sporting world, with football having been hit particularly hard.

In a bid to prevent further spread of the virus amongst fans and players alike, the majority of high-profile football competitions worldwide have been brought to a halt.

In Europe, all of the top-5 leagues, along with the Champions League and Europa League, have been postponed for the time being.

International football has also taken a major hit, with both Euro 2020 and Copa America, which had been scheduled to take place this summer, having been pushed back until next year.

Contract concerns

As such, as things stand, more questions than answers surround football at the highest level moving forward.

It currently remains altogether unclear whether the 2019/20 campaign will be played to completion, or, if it is, exactly when the season will end.

A further issue which has been brought to light by such uncertainty of late, meanwhile, has surrounded the contracts of players.

As things stand, a whole host of stars across Europe and beyond are tied down to deals set to expire on June 30th.

As a result, with the very real possibility existing that the campaign will drag on into July and beyond, such players would no longer technically be contracted to their clubs, with fixtures left to play.

This would pose a major problem for the likes of Premier League giants Chelsea, who currently have all of Olivier Giroud, Willian and Pedro Rodriguez tied to expiring deals.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 22: Olivier Giroud of Chelsea celebrates with teammate Jorginho after scoring his team’s first goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on February 22, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

‘Cannot be forced’

Such fears appeared to be put to bed late last month, however, after a document produced by Fifa concerning the subject of expiring contracts was leaked.

In this document, it was stated that the unforeseen nature of the COVID-19 crisis had handed world football’s governing body the power to propose a new contract deadline, which would see players forced to continue plying their trade with their current clubs until the season’s rescheduled end date.

If the latest comments on the part of leading sports lawyer Nick De Marco prove accurate, though, then such measures would not actually apply to players currently plying their trade in the Premier League.

According to De Marco, due to English employment law, players simply cannot be forced to continue playing beyond the expiry date of their current contracts.

Speaking in an interview with Sky Sports, the long-time legal practitioner, who has been working in the field of sports since 2002, explained:

‘Legally, they cannot be forced to continue to play for the club.’

‘Nobody can force them to do so; FIFA, the FA, the club or anybody else. If they want to walk away, that’s a matter for them but it will really be a matter of whether, financially, that makes sense for them.’

De Marco continued:

‘What you’re most likely to see as a preferred option is probably very short-term extensions of contracts based on existing salary terms. That won’t suit everyone, and it can’t be forced on anyone in England.’

‘For example, if you’re a player coming towards the end of your contract and, perhaps, the end of your career, maybe you only have one more contract left, you may be very reluctant to sign a contract for only a few weeks or an indeterminate period of time.’

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