Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also affected soccer. Beyond the suspension of sport competitions, foreign players in Ukrainian teams have been forced to flee the country as a consequence of the war.
Many doubts and questions have arisen these days as to the contractual situation of players and coaches linked to clubs affiliated to the Ukrainian Football Association (“UAF”) and the Russian Football Union (“FUR”). According to article 27 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (“RSTP”), matters not provided for in the regulations and cases of force majeure will be decided by the FIFA Council, whose decisions are final. Indeed, world soccer’s governing body already used this provision to issue measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
However, FIFA has rightly decided to clarify the uncertainty of numerous soccer professionals in Russia and Ukraine by issuing a series of measures under Annex 7 RSTP to address this exceptional situation.
On March 7, FIFA published a series of temporary measures authorizing the suspension of contracts of players and coaches until June 30, 2022. This release allows them to sign a new contract with another club without facing consequences of any kind.
The measures are essentially as follows:
- The first objective is to enable foreign players and coaches with contracts with UAF clubs to work and receive a salary. Unless the parties explicitly agree otherwise, all employment contracts will be considered automatically suspended until the end of the season in Ukraine (June 30, 2022).
- The second objective is to facilitate the departure of foreign players and coaches from Russia. If clubs affiliated to the FUR fail to reach an agreement with them before March 10, 2022, and unless otherwise agreed in writing, foreign players and coaches will have the right to unilaterally suspend their employment contracts until the end of the season in Russia (June 30, 2022).
In order to provide more flexibility, FIFA will allow foreign players previously registered with the UAF or the FUR to register with a new federation, even if the registration period is already closed—as will be the case in the vast majority of cases. However, for this exception to be applicable and to protect the integrity of competitions, registration with the new club must occur before April 7, 2022.
Consequently, clubs will be entitled to register a maximum of two players who have benefited from the exception under Annex 7 RSTP without the training compensation provided for in article 20.
Finally, minors fleeing from Ukraine to other countries due to the armed conflict will be considered to fulfill the requirements of article 19(2)(d) RSTP, granting refugee status and allowing the international transfer of players before the age of 18.
With these temporary measures, FIFA seeks to address the contractual uncertainty of numerous players and coaches in clubs affiliated to the UAF and the FUR, at least until the end of this season. That is the rationale for allowing them to leave and sign for new teams in other leagues despite being outside the temporary transfer windows.