Vidushpat Singhania of Krida Legal has urged the owners to have a humanitarian approach to the situation.

The I-League 2019-20 season was abandoned recently due to the nationwide lockdown implemented in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. It has affected the relationship between players and clubs. To put it into context, NEROCA FC have been unable to pay salaries to several players from their roster for the past couple of months.

This has has brought into focus the ‘force majeure’ clause that is present in certain contracts. ‘Force Majeure’ could be explained as an unforeseeable circumstance that prevents someone from fulfilling the contract. Considering the current coronavirus pandemic, it is being believed that such a clause could be put into effect by the clubs.

Sports law expert from Krida Legal, Vidushpat Singhania, has presented a differing view about the current state of affairs. Speaking to TOI, he said, “FIFA has issued Covid-19 guidelines which recommend that rather than unilaterally terminating the agreement, the clubs should attempt to work out an arrangement with the players.”

He continued, “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.”

This suggests that clubs could conclude their agreements with players whose contracts are bound to end this year. In such a circumstance, the ‘force majeure’ condition could be brought into effect.

However, if the players are contracted on a multiple-year basis with the clubs, then the agreements could be suspended only until that unpredictable scenario lasts. In this case, that scenario could refer to the COVID-19 crisis.

Singhania further explained, “In case clubs terminate the agreement of a player which was valid till the end of the 2019-2020 season, due to AIFF’s cancelling the remaining part of the I-League season and application of force majeure, it will likely satisfy the argument that the player agreement had become impossible to perform under the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) jurisprudence.

“However, FIFA recommends that an amicable solution be worked out with the players,” he concluded.

Singhania also opined that the clubs could have paid their employed players a certain amount of money that is lower than their usual wages by the time their present contract ends.

This would have been the more humanitarian conduct from the clubs’ perspective and would have also provided a sigh of relief to the concerned players.

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