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Footballers and ‘rebus sic stantibus’

“Right now we’re no more important than a supermarket delivery man,” a Premier League executive recently said in a meeting. The comment was picked up by Alberto Muñoz, our London correspondent, and resonates even more now that numerous clubs are conjointly planning an ERTE — temporary redundancy package — for employees and reducing players’ wages. Barcelona, for whom things are tighter than most, started first. There was an initial meeting between the four club captains, a gathering in which the club thought to have found concordance, only for the players to reject the proposal and set things back. Professionals from the club’s other professional teams did accept the 70% reduction of their salaries while no competitions are taking place.

"I can see where players are coming from"

I’ve come into contact with and admired footballers for many years and I can understand where they’re coming from. They earn a lot, granted, but for a limited period of time. They have never been able to pay taxes in the form of ‘irregular income’ to then pay their contributions over a few years in deferments in order to pay fewer taxes. Their career is short-lived and can be curtailed by a serious injury. Moreover, there are thousands of cases of players going bankrupt shortly after they retire — that always used to happen and was still happening until fairly recently, as long as large fortunes are earned. One such example is Ronaldinho, who was playing ‘only yesterday’. That explains, not justifies, his self-interest every time the issue of money comes up.

Different times

Yet on this occasion they will have to submit. Yes, they can put a case forward for their contract terms, but they were signed in different circumstances. 'Rebus sic stantibus' or ‘things standing thus’… In times gone by, Latin was added to every contract in Spain, up until it was considered unnecessary, but the principle, dating from Roman Law, is still there, and in this particular case it is clearly a matter of things not being the way they were. Nor do we know when they will be the way they were. Barça intend to pay them less because they can't keep paying them the same and have no income — in other words, the club is in a tight spot. Soon everyone will have to do the same thing and as things stand today it’s true, there’s not a big difference between footballers and a supermarket delivery man.

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