By Chris Izu Okafor
There’s a thin line between contractual obligation and forced labour and Releases clauses in La Liga which has roots in Spanish labour laws really help in making this line defined.
Firstly, Release-clause in a player’s contract indicates that, subject to agreed conditions (e.g from a particular transfer window or non-participation in the Champions League), automatically requires a club to accept an offer of a pre-determined contractual amount expressly set out in the contract from the offering club. If the minimum amount stipulated in the contract is triggered by the purchasing club, the player will be entitled to speak to that club.
Release Clauses in Spain, popularly known as Buy-out fees, take a further dimension, as players could literally buy their way out of contracts. They are mandatory in contracts in Spain, most especially in football (Spanish La Liga), although the fee could be set at a very robust or inflated amount which doesn’t necessarily reflect the immediate or true value of the player, nonetheless it is a good development for football; ll explain why.
But before I do so, it’s imperative to note that when all three parties (Parent club, player and Buying club) are okay with the transfer, negotiations can be carried out and the release clause, astronomical or not doesn’t have to be paid, in that situation, a middle ground could be reached, a more reasonable sum is agreed and all parties find semblance of satisfaction in the deal.
That’s another thing a release clause brings to the table. Clubs can fix it at a fee that is double the value of the player and when the said fee is paid, the paying club will “feel” the sum of money leaving their coffers and it goes a long way to signal their real interest in a player who most likely is important to his current club.
Many a times, players still midway in their contracts could feel disconnected from the club they do play for, may feel homesick, may no longer feel motivated playing at a certain level, may need new challenges, need a contract or opportunity that promises higher returns and keeping in mind that to optimize an athlete’s performance there needs to be a synchronization of balance (Mentally and physically), a steady verve of motivation and passion, the presence of release clauses prove to be the best win-win for both club and player, in the most basic sense of the word.
Too many a time, there have been cases where player expresses a desire for a new challenge, is no longer motivated at the prospect of turning out in his present colours and is offered no way out due to a contractual agreement that made no provision for one.
It’s normal that fans and supporters of a club may not want a particular player leaving, especially when it may seem that the player is most needed at a particular phase or transitioning at the club, but there’s really no advantage at keeping a player who no longer wants to play for a club or put on a clubs colors. It will most likely lead to distortions in concentration both for player and club and in certain cases, it derails the players ability and output.
Some examples of players that have caused rancor in their clubs ranks due to their club refusing to negotiate with another club who wanted their services and who they wanted to line up for too include but are not limited to luca Modric who even forcedly pulled out from two games to make his stand clear, or Mascherano, who didn’t turn out for their all important game against man city on August 2010. There are numerous examples and the presence of a release clause will put an end to this acrimony.
Neymar’s move was one that was never going to be sanctioned by Barcelona due to the immense value he brought to the club both in terms of sporting and commercial values but the player for various reasons which included him needing a new challenge was able to secure his move to PSG by the payment and activation of his release clause, (The veracity of where and how the money came is another matter entirely).
A stark difference can be seen in Liverpool’s pursuit of Naby Keita where despite clear indications of the player angling for a move, he has been refused one. Another case worthy of mention is Barcelona’s pursuit of Marco Veratti from ironically the same Paris Saint Germain, where the player who despite being open to the move has been denied the right by the club.
Now although these players haven’t done anything overtly dramatic in pushing for a move and have conducted themselves in a professional manner, it doesn’t stop them from sulking at missed opportunities to pursue their passions or achieve what they consider a next phase in their careers and this could affect their performances for the season. Even at that, pulling off dramatic stunts doesn’t cover up for release clauses or doesn’t guarantee that clubs will shift ground and as evident in Van Der Vaarts case in 2007, where he posed with a valencia shirt while still on a Hamburg contract to force the clubs hand didn’t materialize as he was denied the move and “forced” to play for the club that season.
As Neymar’s case has shown, release clauses are important for transactions to be smooth. Unlike other situations where the player had to pull off dramatic stunts to signal their intention of leaving and engaging in a drawn out war of keeping the player against his will and fending off negotiations, he turned up for Fc Barcelona in the preseason and even produced excellent performances.
Although Barcelona will have lost a lot in terms of sporting appeal Neymar brought to the club, they have received a fee which is more than twice the value of the previous transfer record. That in a sense, is still remarkable.
Players, for optimal performance should decide their utmost fate and in the case where the club tries to block their dreams, Release-clauses present a sensible way out. The line between “Forced labour” and Contracted agreements should be clearer with this and other leagues should emulate the Spanish league in this regard.
Izuchukwu Okafor is a storyteller, scriptwriter, content developer and Chinua Achebe Aficionado. When he’s not reading, writing or pontificating, he listens to Fela and watches Instagram skits- a lot more than his data would normally allow. He tweets @lohs_21