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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Webster Ruling and Its Effect on MLS by Dan Leo


Image courtesy of
www.football.co.uk.
Please click the image
to read the story by
The Independent.

Editor's Note


Andy Webster was a former Hearts of Midlothian player. He is now at Rangers Glasgow on loan from Wigan Athletic. Here is some background on a potentially important ruling on domestic and international transfers.

"The football transfers and contracts market is about to undergo a seismic shift on a par with the Bosman ruling after the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland yesterday made a landmark ruling on Andy Webster's unilateral breach of contract from Heart of Midlothian in 2006.

The CAS decision, which also took a sideswipe at the handling of Webster's case by football's world governing body, Fifa, effectively enshrines a formula that allows a player to breach his contract after a 'protected period' and pay his club only the value of his remaining wages in compensation."

Source: The Independent, 31 January 2008.

by Dan Leo for World Football Commentaries

I have brought up the Andy Webster's case with relation to Clint Dempsey's situation over a year ago.

Clint was making ~ $80K then with the Revs and Fulham could have taken his contract over (technically, Clint would have had to breach his MLS contract and then Fulham could have signed him but that's splitting hairs) for next to nothing. Yet it agreed to pay MLS ~ $3M in transfer fees.

There was also a case of Andres Mendoza, who decided to quit Brugge in 2005 just because Metalurh Donetsk offered him more money. The Belgian court ruled that a player could break an absolutely valid contract and subsequently Mendoza made it to Ukraine with no compensation going to Brugge.

As to reaction to this ruling (if binding, as it seems to be), there's not that much benefit to the players here.

First of all, with more players available, the wages wouldn't go up based on the old Supply & Demand law. Marvin Miller and Donald Fehr (Major League Baseball) got brilliantly around it by keeping the players with their clubs but at the arbitration prices. Had they allowed players onto the free agent market, their salaries would not have risen that quickly.

Second of all, you'll have the pyramid based deals - 1st year performance rolled as bonuses into the 2nd year, then both rolled into the 3rd year, etc. over some basic value.

Third, you'll have more short term deals and those have always benefited the employers due to the motivation of the employees. (Bill Parcells of Miami said recently that if everyone in the NFL was on 1-year contracts, you'd have 120 people in the Pro-Bowl).

Fourth, there may have to be some intra- and/or inter-league agreements not to raid the competitors talent, coached into more obtuse work permit or registration rules.

The important difference is that the players universally welcomed the original Bosman rule. They may be lukewarm about this.

It benefited Webster because of his personal problems with the Hearts management. It may also help guys like Twellman, since MLS is a FIFA signatory league. It may also help some superstars.

It will not help the rank and file players much because they will not be offered long term contracts anymore unless a solution to this unilateral contract breach is found between the players, their agents, and the clubs.

About the Author

Dan Leo is a freelance writer based from Miami, Florida.

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