Manchester City vs. Carlos Tevez: Why City Could Save Football from Itself

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Manchester City vs. Carlos Tevez: Why City Could Save Football from Itself
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Carlos Tevez.

This is possibly the biggest story in football at this moment in time, but it may well be a story that will echo throughout football for decades to come.

Just as the case of journeyman Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman reshaped how transfers were conducted and how contracts were structured, so could the Carlos Tevez saga have a profound impact on the movement of players.

What the situation between City and Tevez has brought into focus is the power that players have in the game and how little value there is for clubs in a typical contract.

Here are some interesting facts that show how clubs are almost powerless to manage players:

• In England a club can only fine a player two weeks wages without agreement from the PFA.

• The absolute maximum fine for a player is six weeks wages.

• If a player refuses to play and is sacked then he is free to sign for another club immediately.

• If a player is refused the chance to train with his team (but paid) he can sue the club.

To most people the situation where there is very little downside to unacceptable behaviour is plainly wrong and is indicative of how players are divorced from the real values of the wider society.

So as Manchester City navigate their way through the minefield of employment law and contract issues, it seems impossible that a club would ever choose to sack a player.

Tevez refuses to play

If a player were to have his contract cancelled, then the club's investment (in Tevez's case of about £30 million) in the player purchase would be lost and the player could freely negotiate an improved contract with a new club.

If a club were to keep a player and punish him by getting him to train away from the first team—with the juniors or reserves or even alone—then the player could (and in all likelihood would) sue the club for restraint of trade. That would happen even if he were still in receipt of his full wage.

So for the player it is win-win—if he wants to force a move, he simply needs to behave in a manner that could be considered gross misconduct.

But Tevez has brought this situation from the shadows and into the bright light of public gaze, and it may well lead to FIFA getting involved and changing the rules of the sport.

There quite simply has to be an option for clubs to sanction players for gross misconduct that hurts the player and not just the club, and the answer may well come in the form of a FIFA ban.

The suggestion is that if a player were found guilty of gross misconduct, his club would advise FIFA of the facts, and, if FIFA agreed, a worldwide football ban could be handed down. Crucially the sacking club would retain the players' registration.

This would mean that a player could not sign for any other club until a suitable financial package is agreed to with the sacking club, but during the ban the player would not be paid.

There are some indications that FIFA would not limit any ban to the length of the player's contract but could insist that the ban remain in place until the club that sacked the player agrees on a compensation package, either with the player himself or with another club.

Although none of this is in place to change the outcome between City and Tevez, it may well be that Tevez will be remembered more for empowering clubs in their dealings with players than anything he achieves in a playing sense.

And I, for one, think that is something that we may well need to thank him for.

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