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I-League Clubs Need To Consider Players’ Interests While Activating Force Majeure

According to experts force majeure functions differently in contracts dependent on their length, and also need to follow FIFA’s Covid-19 guidelines which recommend that rather than terminating agreements, clubs work out arrangements with the players individually.
East Bengal terminate player contracts citing Covid-19 lockdown

East Bengal and their main investors Quess Corp are in conflict after the latter activated the force majeure to cancel all player contracts post April 20,2020 (Pic: Twitter, Goal.com).

Professional relationships between players and clubs have become strained over the past few days, following a series of revelations about termination of contracts and unpaid salaries in the I-league. 

While East Bengal have terminated player contracts citing force majeure, NEROCA FC have revealed that they have been unable to pay players salaries over the last couple of months -- after the government declared a national lockdown on March 24. NEROCA have insisted that problems are purely based on their inability to receive funding from their Hong Kong based partners Living 3D.

According to sports law expert Vidushpat Singhania of Krida Legal, force majeure functions differently in different contracts, contingent upon when they end. 

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"FIFA has issued Covid-19 guidelines which recommend that rather than unilaterally terminating the agreement, the club should attempt to work out an arrangement with the players. Only if such negotiations fail can they can terminate the agreement unilaterally. As for the players, they can seek legal redress from the player status committee," said Singhania to the Times of India.

If the contract ends this year, then the clubs have the right to cancel the agreement at any time during the force majeure periods, and can halt the payments of the player. However, if the agreement is multi-year then it can only be terminated until the force majeure period. In both these situations though, the clubs are expected to carry out their responsibilities as good employers and respect humanitarian considerations. 

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Singhania also stresses that there needs to be new terms of negotiations between players and clubs to ensure no player gets left without reasonable income. 

"In such circumstances, players would be paid in full until the last day of I-League action. During lockdown, clubs could have paid the players an amount which is lower than their usual pay until their contract ends.”

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