How ‘coronavirus clause’ could infiltrate future A-League player contracts

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Future A-League player contracts could include a ‘coronavirus clause’ exempting clubs from player payments should recurrent COVID-19 outbreaks provoke ongoing competition shutdowns.

That possibility is looming as a potential consequence of the pandemic which has brought world football to a virtual standstill.

Whilst the PFA would fight tooth-and-nail to oppose its introduction, clubs worldwide are believed to be considering the drastic measure amongst a plethora of possible ways to stem revenue losses in the face of ongoing disruption.

Postulating on what a future contractual landscape might look like, leading Sydney-based player agent Paddy Dominguez said: “I think that moving forward, after experiencing this unprecedented disruption, we may potentially see clauses inserted into players’ contracts to protect both players and clubs should an unforeseen event like this recur in the future.

“There are bodies that would need to be involved in protecting both sides - FIFPro and the PFA here in the case of the players and FIFA, member associations and leagues around the world on behalf of clubs and entire leagues.

“Nobody knows how long the virus will continue for, or the full extent of the damage it might cause.

“This leads to huge uncertainty in the football landscape both domestically and internationally, which may have an effect on negotiations and planning for next season.

“It’s difficult for all parties - players, clubs, leagues and governing bodies to plan while not knowing whether there might be a need to pause for a prolonged period.”

There is no guarantee when leagues globally will resume from the current lockdowns, while the A-League is due to continue behind closed doors in a truncated format in Sydney and Melbourne to satisfy the contractural demands of broadcaster Fox Sports.

Dominguez contends that clubs will be tempted to delay re-signing players or recruiting new ones whilst uncertainty lingers over competition scheduling.

And those that are snapped up might have to accept deals on reduced terms.

“How long might seasons be on hold? When will they restart? When might they finish, particularly in Europe?” he added.

“There are many unknown elements at the moment and it’s crucial not to get ahead of ourselves and predict the unknown but to deal with the information available now and tackle each obstacle as it presents.

“Clearly the disruption will have a profound financial impact on clubs everywhere.

“This will differ from league to league as the wealthier and more financially robust clubs will be better able to absorb the losses.

“Conversely some leagues and clubs will suffer a lot of hardship, particularly with the loss of match-day revenues and this may have a trickle down effect on player, coach and staff wages.

“Once again, this is all unknown at this stage. Within the A-League some clubs will be better placed financially than others to tackle this situation, but it will be important for the sake of the league as a whole to help all the teams get through it.

“Also there are a significant number of players coming off contract at the end of the season who will be anxious to resolve their futures but may need to remain patient as the clubs themselves need to deal with an evolving crisis.”

Dominguez, whose clients include Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren, said clubs both in Australia and elsewhere were already putting contract talks on hold until they can get an indication of what shape the next few months might take.

“There’s is much uncertainly around scheduling, financial outlook and the like,” he said.

“I think in global terms we are in good hands with a strong leader in (FFA CEO) James Johnson to help the sport here get through this difficult period.

“It was fantastic to see in his press conference the other day that the FFA had consulted all the other stakeholders in coming to a decision when in the past we most likely would been handed down an edict from on high telling us what might happen next.

“It’s refreshing to see collaboration between the stakeholders. Every cloud ...”