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Football Managerial contracts: devil in the detail

By Dan Chapman


As the football season draws to an end,  directors and fans of Clubs around the UK contemplate what this means for their first team football manager. Has he performed so well that other Clubs will be casting envious glances in his direction?   Or has the season been such a disappointment that a change may be needed?   Or is it time to back the manager again for a fresh launch on next season?    As a sports lawyer,  one’s mind inevitably turns to the more mundane issue of what football managerial contract is in place between the parties and, in particular, the detail of the terms therein. 

It will be much reported that the decisions Clubs or managers may take in the coming weeks will be financially motivated.  There will be talk of Clubs not being able to afford to dismiss their manager, of managers not being free to move on,  of managers seeking to move to a ‘bigger’ Club,  of Clubs seeking a ‘bigger’ name to manage their first team squad and so on.

What actually underpins much of what will be happening in the weeks ahead will be the contractual position between the Club and the manager,  and given as one would expect the precise terms of the contract of employment between a Club and their manager will be unknown to all but a very few,  it is true to say that much speculation one reads is likely to be ill informed. 

The legal position as to a Club and their manager is incredibly complex.  Unlike with footballers (where their contracts are in the large part in a standard form),  no two contracts between a Club and a manager are likely to be the same.   All manner of variables are at play,  including the strength of the bargaining power of the parties when they entered in to the contract and whether one or both parties were legally represented.   In addition to the contract of employment,  Clubs and managers are also bound by regulatory provisions from the bodies such as the Premier League, Football League and Football Conference which place considerable restrictions on how the parties must act. 

At Full Contact,  Dan Chapman has extensive experience of drafting and advising upon managerial contracts at all levels of the game,  and comments that “The subject of how and when a football club and a manager might part company is incredibly complex, and one could easily see in the next few weeks five or six scenarious develop where the legal position behind each is entirely different.   Issues of notice periods, rolling contracts, compensation clauses, garden leave will all arise, and in some cases clubs have the legal upperhand – in others, the managers are completely in control.  Without having sight of the contract,  or indeed in some cases being aware that is no written contract at all,  it is almost impossible to comment on the legal position and the options available to either party.”   


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About Dan
The spearhead and Senior Partner of Full Contact, Dan is an experienced solicitor and advocate, with a specialist background in employment law and sports.

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