Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) today reiterated that any A-League club that directs a player to train alone is in breach of its legal obligations to that player and to the PFA and can face hefty compensation claims and the prospect of sporting sanctions, including the deduction of points and a ban on registering players for two transfer windows.

PFA Special Counsel Brendan Schwab said this week’s developments at Sydney FC involving experienced professionals Nick Carle and Matt Thompson were part of an emerging and worrying trend among A-League clubs.

“The PFA takes a very strong view that the practice of harassing players by excluding them from their team has no place in the A-League,” said Schwab, who is a Vice President of FIFPro, the world players’ union.

“The tactic is derived from some of the most troublesome leagues in world football where there is an entrenched lack of respect for player rights. It takes unscrupulous advantage of the fact that a player’s career is always short term and precarious, and any period out of the game can have long term and sometimes career ending consequences.

“Unfortunately, some A-League clubs have taken to adopting the practice for a number of unjustified reasons, including:
·       To force players into signing “mutual” contract terminations on terms advantageous to the club
·       To force players into signing a new contract on terms demanded by the club
·       To impose baseless disciplinary measures
·       To penalise players for exercising their right to sign a contract with another club  to start once their existing contract had expired.

“A-League clubs have also begun to issue pre-emptive statements to the media to coincide with this treatment of a player which commonly and unjustifiably call into question the player’s professionalism and loyalty. Such statements can only be designed to damage the player’s standing in the eyes of the media and the fans.

“The practice breaches the terms of the A-League Collective Bargaining Agreement 2008/09 – 2014/15 (CBA), the A-League Standard Player Contract (SPC) and Australian employment law in a number of respects.

These include:
·       It destroys the relationship of mutual trust and confidence which is essential to any employment relationship
·       It breaches the player’s right to work
·       It breaches the club’s express obligation to act in good faith to the player
·       It constitutes disciplinary action, which can only be taken if a player breaches his SPC and in accordance with the procedures set out in the CBA
·       It often constitutes bullying and harassment.

“Wherever the PFA forms the view that a club, by this practice, has breached its legal obligations to a player, the PFA will take the following legal action under the CBA:
1.     Demand that the treatment of the player ends and the player is returned to the team
2.     If the club does not comply with that demand, enforce the player’s right to terminate the contract
3.     Seek compensation for the player in an amount equal to the remaining value of the contract, as well as additional compensation based on the specificity of sport
4.     To seek to have sporting sanctions imposed on the club, including the deduction of points and a prohibition on participating in two registration periods.

“The independent FFA/PFA appointed arbitrators have the power to make these orders in accordance with the CBA Grievance Procedure.”

Schwab said the PFA had already assisted a number of A-League players this season in addressing this treatment by A-League clubs.

“The treatment has a profound impact on players physically and psychologically. Accordingly, any matter must be handled with discretion. The treatment can also damage the player’s future employment prospects, so it is often not in the player’s interest to have any dispute over it handled through the media.

“Fortunately, the PFA has been able to settle a number of these disputes on commercially confidential terms. However, where a settlement cannot be reached, the PFA will not hesitate to take action under the CBA,” Schwab added.