GENEVA – Players are getting more power from FIFA to leave soccer clubs who delay paying salaries or mistreat them.
New rules announced Monday will soon let players cancel their contract and sign for another club if they go unpaid for two months, or if employers abuse them with tactics such as orders to train alone.
The changes were confirmed by FIFA and FIFPro, the global group of player unions, as they signed a six-year working agreement.
The Netherlands-based FIFPro, which represents more than 60,000 players worldwide, also agreed to withdraw a complaint about the transfer system it filed to the European Commission in September 2015.
“While clubs in the richest leagues invariably treat players well, there are other leagues in which the employment rights of footballers are routinely ignored,” FIFPro President Philippe Piat said in a statement.
In some cases, players have been tied to clubs which fell months behind in paying salaries, and have been harassed with tactics designed to intimidate them into leaving or signing contracts on less favorable terms.
Clubs face FIFA imposing an immediate transfer ban if they fail to pay compensation awarded to players, which could amount to six months of salary.
Research by FIFPro in 2016 showed 41 percent of thousands of players asked had been paid late in the previous two years. Players have gone on strike in leagues in Argentina and Spain over unpaid wages in the last decade.
Players have also now been promised faster rulings, and tribunals in more countries, to settle contract disputes faster and more fairly. Cases have stretched for years through FIFA judicial bodies, then the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The rules came out of a wider agreement FIFA reached with key stakeholders, including clubs and leagues worldwide, which met in Zurich last month.
“These were complicated negotiations with the game’s key stakeholders and each one has made some compromises,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement.
More progress is expected within months in a review of soccer’s transfer market that sees billions of dollars move around the world each year. A FIFA working group of stakeholders will start to meet with an open agenda including the size of transfer fees, length of trading periods, role of agents, and stockpiling players through the loan system.