By Dan Chapman
Shortly after the introduction of the much heralded Elite Player Performance Plan (“EPPP”) I had cause to write an article; EPPP: can the player vote with his feet ?
What I had perhaps not envisaged at the time was quite how many parents of young players – through no fault of their own – found themselves in a dispute. Worse still, how those parents (and also clubs seeking to register young players) found nowhere to turn, nowhere to seek advice or remedy and often left with no choice but to resort to drastic measures to salvage their young son’s chance of a football career.
Moreover, what I had not envisaged was how important the number ‘7’ or ’10’ was to become. If this article can achieve one thing, it would be to caution all parents and young players to check whether they are signing a YD7 form or a YD10 form – for they are very different. To be fair, that caution also applies to clubs ; particularly those lower down the EPPP categories ; who we are finding are either failing to protect their compensation position when they are entitled to, or who are unlawfully protecting their compensation position when they have no right to. I predict that it will not be very long before the first club and/or officials are found guilty of misconduct before a Football Disciplinary Commission.
What are these YD7 and YD10 forms ?
If a young player leaves an Academy he and his parents will be given one of these forms to sign, and the termination will be recorded forever and a day as either YD7 release or a YD10 release. The former is better known as a release ‘without compensation’, whereas the latter is a release ‘with compensation’. Where a player is only released subject to a YD10 form, it means that any new club wishing to register that player will be liable to pay compensation as set out by the EPPP tariff (or such other sum as may be agreed between the former and new club). The only time that a club should be using a YD10 form is where they have made a compliant offer of extended registration to a player (by no later than 1st March if under 16, or by no later than the third Saturday in May if over 16) and that offer has been rejected ; in those limited circumstances, a club is entitled to release that player
So where are the problems?
I have come across the following scenarios:
– Club A allegedly told the player and his parents that they would not be extending his registration verbally, but in a letter made an offer to extend which the parents alleged they had never received. The player/parents reacted to the verbal rejection and were asked to sign a ‘release’ form. They were given and signed a form YD10 and sometime later discovered the relevance of this when after a successful trial Club B wished to register the player. Club A sought compensation and relied upon their letter and YD10 form. The parents were adamant that their son had been told he was being released verbally and that they signed the ‘release’ form put in front of them on face value.
– Club C had a disagreement with the player and his parents about his educational requirements and the parents believe they agreed with the club on a mutual consent basis to part company. It was not clear whether an offer of extended registration was made, save that the club asked the player and his parents to sign a YD10 form. The parents allege that Club C told them that this was the standard form to be used for a mutual consent termination and that it would not cause the player any difficulties in the future. When a new club tried to register the player, Club C claimed £18,500 compensation and maintain that they had explained to the parents that they were retaining compensation rights; the parents maintain that they were told there would be ‘no difficulties’.
– Club D was geographically a long way from home for a 12 year old player and when his hometown club opened their Academy, the player’s father asked Club D if his son could be released from his registration. There is no doubt that Club D confirmed in writing that they were only releasing using a YD10 form that allowed them to retain compensation rights, but the father alleges that he was told verbally by Club D that this was standard procedure but that in reality they would always agree to waive it unless ‘it was a big Premier League club wanting to sign him, as they could afford to pay it’. Given the hometown club was a League Two club, the father alleges he accepted his assurance on face value and willingly signed the YD10 form. When the new club sought to register the player they were asked to pay £10,500 in compensation which they could ill afford ; Club D deny that they made verbal assurances to waive compensation for all but a Premier League club and their lawyers argue that, even if they did, the terms of the YD10 form and the governing rules override any such verbal representations.
– A parent of a 11 year old player moved his son from Club E to Club F without any understanding that a £7,000 compensation fee was due, and following a direct approach from Club F that they desperately wanted to sign his son. He had relocated his family and gained new employment in order to facilitate the move to Club F, but when Club F refused to pay the compensation (even though it is alleged that they had been told quite openly that he had been released from Club E on a YD10 form and thus should have known what was due) on the basis that the ‘Board has recently decided to bring in a policy not to pay fees for young players’ the father tried to negotiate a lesser fee with Club E. Club E refused to negotiate, and the father ended up taking out a loan to pay Club E (who are a relatively wealth club, by objective standards) £7,000.
And so it goes on….the above represent just a handful of the instructions that have arrived at our offices and one suspects they are representative of the type of matters that are arising nationwide in some volume. It has to be said that some parents are perhaps guilty of naivety, others may even have selective memories – but there is no doubt that a real concerning pattern of stories has emerged. It has to be said, in the interests of portraying a complete and fair impression, that I am aware of a number of clubs who continue to act with real grace – frequently agreeing to waive compensation even where a YD10 form has been rightly used or even issuing YD7 forms in circumstances where they could have used a YD10. Some clubs are prepared to waive up front compensation fees in return for negotiating contingent payments based on future outcomes, as and when a young player makes progress at his new club.
In most cases, the relevant rules and the terms that apply to the YD7 and YD10 forms are clear. The pattern that seems to be emerging, however, is the suggestion that parents are being given verbal assurances by clubs and their staff that conflict with the actual legal position – and when that happens (and if it happens) the regulatory regime in place leaves the parent and young player in a perilous position. Another pattern, of course, is that parents simply do not understand the rules – and why should they? But with a young player unable to engage an agent until he is 16, and with the cost of legal advice often prohibitive, what forum is there for the parent to gain urgent and accurate advice when faced with a YD form to sign?
Is there a fair solution?
I believe the current system is simply going to produce more and more disputes, leave more young players unable to register with a new club and – ultimately – harm as many clubs as it harms young players.
I have a proposal that I would like the FA to consider. It would protect the young players and their parents, but also protect clubs from spurious allegations. It would save the FA from the administrative expense of dealing with disputes and constant queries. The proposal is simple : whenever a club wishes to issue a YD10 form – given the potential implications that the form can have for the career of the young player – the parent has to obtain independent legal advice and the advisor counter-signs the YD10 form. This system is how Settlement Agreements (more recently known as Compromise Agreements) are policed in the traditional employment sphere, and the FA could establish a panel of specialist sports lawyers who would quickly and cheaply be able to give advice and counter-sign (where appropriate) the YD10 forms.
There are a number of other solutions; one of those is that the rules could be re-drafted to include a requirement that YD forms come with a ‘cooling-off’ period, leaving the parent a window of opportunity to take retrospective advice. There are many more ; but what seems sure to me is that the matter is one that needs addressing. When there is a 12 year old player sitting at home tonight unable to register for any club in the country because no one will pay £18,500 for his services (and to be frank, most clubs lower down in the Football League do not pay those level of fees for even a first team player) then we have lost this young boy to the game. He may have gone on to be a good professional player ; statistically it is more likely that he would not have done. But the fact that he and we will never have the chance to find out is surely wrong ? That is not what the Beautiful Game intended is it?
For advice on the issues discussed in this article please contact Dan Chapman.
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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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