Perhaps the most important regulation concerning FIFA, the RSTP (Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players) was officially created in 2001, in the same context of the creation of tribunals within football’s ultimate ruler. The document’s name was chosen due to its content: it dealt mostly with player-related matters.
As time went by, new rules regarding new topics arose and were introduced to the RSTP, taking shape either as articles or annexes. Rules have evolved, as in any legal system, and they will keep evolving alongside football.
However, an absurd gap has existed until very recently: against all the principles FIFA enforces towards the “football family” concerning contract stability and the parties’ protection, the regulations were completely silent regarding the employment agreements of professional coaches. Even worse: there was not even a definition of ‘coach’ for the sake of guaranteeing their rights – their only legal support other than mere jurisprudence was an acceptance of competence by the Players’ Status Committee (art. 22.c of the RSTP).
Having no written rules to protect them, coaches who went working abroad – and thus would in theory be within the FIFA tribunals’ scope of action – were left completely unsupported and had their work much harder, especially if they were not head coaches. Clubs would drag them to their countries telling them fairy tales and promising conditions they could not – nor intended to – deliver, with close to zero consequences for a long time.
That is to say: to the eyes of FIFA, for several years coaches were not a part of football that deserved protection. Metaphorically speaking, it was as if they did not exist.
Since there was no clear definition or specific a set of rules to protect coaches, FIFA would often decline competence and would simply not hear claims lodged by assistant coaches, physical coaches and others. Sometimes, however, they would hear the claims and pass decisions normally. As there was nothing in written obligating FIFA to deal with those matters, they would often refuse to provide legal support, forcing coaches and their staff (especially lawyers!) to come up with a number of different strategies to guarantee access to justice.
Perhaps the most common of them was to formalize the signing of an entire coaching staff by means of a single contract on the name of the head coach, and therefore guarantee that an eventual claim would be heard, since FIFA usually ruled on cases moved by head coaches.
Another tactic was to draft contracts for all the members of the coaching staff as if they were all assistant coaches (assistant coach nr. 1, nr. 2, nr. 3…), since that was also a role FIFA most times would care for.
In November 2020, FIFA announced changes concerning the RSTP, amongst which were several contractual guarantees extended to coaches, as well as a clear definition of what they considered a coach for the sake of hearing claims. In January 2021, the new RSTP came into force, and this was the definition presented:
Coach: an individual employed in a football-specific occupation by a professional club or association whose:
i. employment duties consist of one or more of the following: training and coaching players, selecting players for matches and competitions, making tactical choices during matches and competitions; and/or
ii. employment requires the holding of a coaching licence in accordance with a domestic or continental licensing regulation.
Fortunately, said definition touched upon more than just the head coach and the assistant coach (including the futsal ones), and all of them will now have their rights secured by the content of the new RSTP’s Annexe 8:
- Contracts from January 2021 on must be signed on an individual basis and in written form. They must contain the scope of the agreement, rights and obligations of the parties, their position in the club, payment conditions, duration, signature of all the involved and an indication of the intermediary that worked on its signing, if there was one;
- The validity of employment agreements can no longer depend on visas, on having or not a coach license or any other administrative requirement to perform work;
- In case of wrongful termination or just cause in favour of the coach, in addition to the already existing compensation (outstanding amount of the contract minus the payments received in other clubs for the same period), another compensation of the equivalent to 3 months of salary shall be paid. In some cases, it can be up to 6 months instead of 3;
- In case the club or association delays the coaches’ payment in 30 days, they can now be sanctioned if the coach duly notified his/her employer to make such payments in up to 10 days, and do not comply. If there is a 2-month delay, coaches will be able to notify their employers to make the payments in up to 15 days, or else they can terminate their contracts with just cause in their favour.
The remaining parts of Annexe 8 basically put in written what jurisprudence has been acknowledging lately.
It is great to see FIFA finally looking after coaches. Given the never-ending development of football around the globe and its intense international traits, it happens more and more often that they work abroad, and it is extremely important for them to have legal guarantees to properly perform their work.
André Oliveira (Brazil)
Brazilian qualified attorney-at-law. Postgrad degree in Sports Business and Law and a Masters in International Sports Law (ISDE – Madrid, 2019). Sports lawyer at Cruzeiro Esporte Clube. Articles include “Pyramid System”, No Profit? Here’s PROFUT!, Intermediaries and Minors and The WADA Whereabouts Rule: Coleman Case Study.
 See FIFA Players’ Status Committee decisions ref. nrs. 20-00549 (French) and 20-00663 (English).
 See FIFA Players’ Status Committee decision 08180730-E (English).
 See FIFA Players’ Status Committee decision 08180066-ES (Spanish).
 See Adolfo Abad Barrios v. Qingdao Huanghai Football Club.