Signing a new deal this summer? What to look out for
One of the strangest seasons in history is now over, and after a time of great uncertainty most players and their families will be enjoying a relaxing break…..that is unless you are one of the hundreds of players who will be looking for a new club this summer.
We have helped players and their agents with moves worth hundreds of millions of pounds over the last few years, and we want to share our thoughts with you on what to look for in any new deal.
It goes without saying that every player has a pretty short playing career. On average a player might sign around four significant playing contracts. Therefore, each deal you sign is an important one for your own career progress and your family’s long-term financial stability. With that in mind, you should take a real interest in the detail of any contract that you are asked to sign.
Check the basics!
We were involved in a case where a player tried to sue his former club because he believed he had signed a four-year contract but had ended up with a three-year deal. Acting for the club, we showed that it had always been a three-year deal. When giving evidence, the player said he relied upon his agent to check the contract; the player’s agent admitted he hadn’t read the contract.
It is so common to hear that a player hasn’t read his contract because he has left it to his agent to deal with. But if anything goes wrong it is you who will suffer the consequences! Remember, this is one of the most important contracts you will enter into during your lifetime, so make sure you read it and understand it.
Your agent may be highly skilled at networking with clubs and negotiating terms – that excellent work can be quickly undone if the contract doesn’t match up to the promises made by the club or agent, so take the advice and time you need to get it right.
What am I signing?
There can be a lot of paperwork involved when a player comes to sign a new deal, including:
Employment contract – for English clubs the document is a standard form that won’t generally change from player to player.
Schedule 2 – this is the key part of the employment contract which sets out the details specific to you, i.e. how long the contract is for, what the salary is, individual bonuses, release clauses, and whether the club is contributing to the agent’s fee;
IM forms – these are the forms that show which agents are involved, what they are being paid, and who they are acting for (e.g. player, club or both). You should know who is involved, and what role they are playing. Even if you are not paying your agent directly, you will still face a significant tax bill for any work they are doing for you, so you need to be aware of what this document says;
Image rights agreement – if you have a valuable profile then an image rights agreement might be offered. If an image rights deal is on the cards, you should take tax and legal advice in advance where possible.
You may also be asked to sign new agent contracts – don’t sign them by mistake, check what you’re being given to sign. With so many papers involved, it is only right that you should (i) read the documents before signing, (ii) take legal advice, and (iii) keep a signed copy of everything for your own records. Getting an experienced sports lawyer to review your documents can be invaluable, and can be done without delaying the deal – as our clients describe.
Clauses to think about
There is no end to the special clauses you could be offered or could seek to negotiate for your contract, but let’s stick to the most likely scenarios for now:
Relegation – it’s common for a club to include an automatic drop in a player’s wages if the club is relegated. Look out for this. It’s not an unreasonable thing for the club to ask (after all their income will drop too), but equally, it might be appropriate for you to ask for a clause allowing you to leave the club if they are relegated.
Bigger ambitions – if this club is a stepping stone, then you might want a clause allowing you to leave if a bigger club comes in for you. It could avoid an argument further down the line if the club don’t want to let you go.
Bonuses – team bonuses are covered separately, but individual bonuses can still be negotiated. There is scope to be creative here, depending on your particular talent and the club’s ambitions. Top scorer in the team, Ballon d’Or nominee, first international call-up…
If you are being offered a contract with a foreign club (even on loan) then the same basic ideas apply as set out above, but the most important thing you should consider is whether you are confident you will be paid. It seems obvious that you expect to be paid your full salary, irrespective of which country you are playing in. However, some countries have a poor reputation when it comes to payment. It is essential that you do everything you can to protect your income under the contract. There are lots of safeguards that can be put in place so specialist advice is highly recommended.
Good luck to you for any move that might be on the horizon. We are here to help – any question, any time – and we’ll respond quickly as we know how fast things can happen when it comes to football transfers.
When I went on loan to Qatar in 2019 and then transferred to Saudi Arabia in 2020 they worked with my agent to make sure the contract was right for me. Very quickly they told us the things that had to be changed in order to protect me, and we got these sorted without any drama. I’m glad I had their support. I would tell any player to do the same.
I’ve learnt over the years that agents and lawyers play very different roles. Both can be important. But having a trusted lawyer like Liz is great because I know that she is there to look out for me and only me. I would advise any player to have a lawyer look at their loans, transfers, image rights and agent agreements so they can get an independent view.
Moving to China was obviously a massive deal for me, but things happened really quickly. As soon as I arrived in Guangzhou I was under pressure to sign a contract that I hadn’t seen in advance. Luckily Livida were there over WhatsApp to talk me through things. I sent over the playing contract and image rights deal and within the hour they had come back to flag any issues. They have so much experience and know what to look out for. All players should get the same reassurance as we are signing deals which are so important in our careers.