Date: 30th August 2010 at 8:24am
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Sebastien Squillaci’s transfer to Arsenal seems to have carried a bit of a theme in some of this seasons transfer shenanigans. Allegedly he refused to play in Sevilla’s first leg CL qualifying game against Braga once knowledge of an offer from Arsenal was known. There is some doubt about the precise circumstances as there is a suggestion that the coach had selected him without any knowledge of any impending transfer and that it was a discussion between Seville’s sporting director, who would have known, and Squillaci that lead to the player withdrawing himself. Whatever did go on the transfer was one that Seville were quite happy to make public and reached an agreement fairly swiftly with Arsenal despite any actions attributed to Squillaci.

The transfer of Mascherano from Liverpool to Barcelona, and the potential transfer of Begovic from Stoke to whoever, has also involved those players apparently refusing to turn out for their teams. Some might cynically claim that a footballer refusing to play football for Stoke perhaps isn’t so much of a controversy as a tactical requirement, to the extent that it is employed by those out on the pitch. Nevertheless the justification for doing so is usually to put pressure on the selling club to accede to the players’ wishes and to avoid reducing the value of the player to the buying club. Either way it’s a distasteful aspect of not only player power but the encouragement of clubs to pressure players to act against the club they are contracted to in order to facilitate the transfer in favour of the buying club.

It’s not too hard to understand the motivation but that doesn`t make it acceptable. Curiously though football seems to have much tougher rules for players refusing to play in meaningless international friendlies than it does for players refusing to turn out for the clubs they are contracted to.

Fabregas faces the prospect of flying to Argentina during the present international break to take part in a friendly match for Spain a few days before our next league fixture. Under Fifa statutes any player picked by his national association is, as a general rule, ‘obliged to respond affirmatively when called up’. If a player refuses the invitation or if his club refuses to release him he can be prevented from playing for his club for up to 7 days after the date of the international fixture. Any club fielding a disallowed player under those conditions in that time can be deemed to have lost the fixture he took part in and forgo any points or progress in the competition involved.

In contrast refuse to play for the club that pays your wages and other than perhaps the prospect of the club taking limited disciplinary action the authorities will turn a blind eye to it. If football decided sometime ago that regulations compelling a player to turn out for his national team were needed then why should their clubs not receive a similar level of regulatory support? Maybe this is a decision that needs to be made to lean a little more towards the contracted club. Should a player refuse to play in a match for which he is selected without just cause then he should be automatically banned from playing in the equivalent competition for any other club for a proportion of the rest of that season, maybe even all of it, be it domestic or continental competition. This would instantly discourage the player from taking such action and the buying club from encouraging him to do so.

Player contract law has loosened significantly in favour of the player over recent times. Effectively no contract lasts more than 3 years or 2 years, depending on age, due to the limited action that can be taken once a player is outside his protected period of contract. Players need to accept that with this greater freedom of contract there is a responsibility to ensure that they honour the contracts they do sign.

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