Football: Film star ruse may aid Bosman clubs

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The Independent Online
CLUBS COULD force players to honour their contracts even if Fifa decides to implement a new law updating the Bosman ruling, according to a leading sports lawyer. The world governing body is reportedly considering handing complete freedom of movement for players, allowing them to demand transfers even if they are tied to long-term contracts.

However, Ken Foster, a lecturer in sports law at Warwick University, insists that clubs could fight back by employing a method used by film- makers Warner Brothers earlier this century to keep hold of their star, Bette Davis. Under that ruling, clubs could not force players to turn out for their team, but could stop them going to another club.

Foster said: "Employers cannot force workers to work for them - that is akin to slavery and clubs could not force a player to play for them. But there is a precedent from the 1930s involving the actress Bette Davis. She tried to walk out on a long-term contract with Warner Brothers film studios. They told her that they could not force her to work for them but they could issue an order which prevented her from working for any other studio."

Foster believes that English clubs could also follow the example of clubs in the Spanish league who have inserted clauses into players' contracts. "There was a clause inserted into Ronaldo's contract at Barcelona - I would call them penalty clauses - saying if the player moves, a large compensation fee has got to be paid by the player to get out of the contract," Foster said.

Fifa has yet to make a final decision on the form the amendment to the ruling will take. "We are constantly working on amendments to regulations on players' status and transfers and they are, among other amendments, working on amendments to do with the Bosman ruling," a spokesman said. "Basically, as the legal situation in Europe evolves, regulation must evolve to adapt and it is an on-going process."

South Africa is to invite the four other African countries seeking to stage the 2006 World Cup finals to a summit in Johannesburg to discuss a unified bid. The summit is to be held next month and follows a visit last week to Egypt and Morocco by the South African deputy tourism minister, Peter Mokaba, and Danny Jordaan, the chief executive officer of South Africa's bid committee.

The summit is to be convened by the South African sports minister, Steve Tshwete, and invitations will be sent to the sports ministers of Ghana and Nigeria as well as Egypt and Morocco, the four other African countries in the race for 2006.

"It is imperative that Africa presents just one candidate if it is to win the bid," said Jordaan.

The South Africans are hoping that the meeting will persuade the other four African candidates to withdraw from the race. They are also keen to include key figures from the other African countries on their bid committee to present a stronger case for a first World Cup finals to be held on the African continent.

The idea for a summit follows an appeal by the Confederation of African Football president, Issa Hayatou, for a single African candidate. Brazil, England and Germany are the other countries bidding for the 2006 finals.