The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has made a landmark decision on football player contracts, ruling that players can buy out the remaining years of their contract if they want to leave.
The decision could mean the end of high transfer fees and that players could walk out of their clubs with years left to run on their contracts.
The ruling came in the dispute between Wigan Athletic and Scottish club Hearts over player Andy Webster, who moved to Wigan in 2006. Webster terminated his contract unilaterally after his relationship with Hearts soured.
Hearts sought compensation and in 2007 Fifa’s Dispute Resolution Chamber ordered Webster to pay £625,000.
But the CAS overturned the decision, meaning Webster now owes Hearts £150,000 – the remaining value of his contract before his departure.
Hammonds sports partner Stephen Sampson, adviser to Hearts, said: “This decision means that contracts can be torn up by players after the protected period, undermining the stability of player contracts across the football world and causing significant difficulties to all clubs.”
Sports partner Matthew Bennett at Brabners Chaffe Street advised Wigan, with Valencia-based sports law practice Ruiz Huerta y Crespo acting for Webster.