George Ford throws Bath future into doubt after activate release clause to end contract early

Ford had until Tuesday to activate a release clause that will end his current deal a year early but he could yet decide to stay with Bath next season

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The Independent Online

George Ford has thrown his future with Bath into serious jeopardy after activating a release clause that will see him become a free agent at the end of the 2016/17 season, although it is not clear if he will seek a move elsewhere or decide to stay with the Aviva Premiership side.

The Times revealed on Wednesday that England fly-half Ford had activated a clause in his contract that will end his deal a year earlier than planned, although there is still some confusion over his ability to then discuss a move to another club despite becoming a free agent.

Bath owner Bruce Craig confirmed to The Times that the 23-year-old will still need permission from the West Country club to leave, despite choosing to go ahead with the release clause that had to be activated by Tuesday 15 November.

“There are lots of different pieces to this. There are other things that need to be applied. It is in our hands whether we let him go or not,” Craig said.

“There is a contract in place until the end of next season. He can’t leave at the end of this season unless the club says he can. It is in our remit whether we let him go or not.”

Ford grew unhappy at Bath when his father, Mike Ford, was sacked as head coach earlier this season. The former England defence coach has since taken up a role with Toulon, but despite being linked with a move to France, Ford Jr is unlikely to head to the Cote d’Azur as it will bring a halt to his international career.

Ford’s options in England are also somewhat limited, which suggests that he could choose to renegotiate his contract with Bath to seek better terms after developing into Eddie Jones’s first-choice fly-half. With Bath sitting in third in the Premiership table, the two sides above them in Saracens and Wasps are unlikely to go after Ford given they already have strong options at fly-half.

Reigning champions Saracens are able to call on Ford’s England midfield partner Owen Farrell and the emerging Alex Lozowski, while Wasps brought Danny Cipriani back in during the summer from Sale Sharks to compete with established outside half Jimmy Gopperth.

Exeter Chiefs and Northampton Saints are both possible destinations, although the former have Gareth Steenson and Henry Slade able to fill the 10 jersey while Saints are currently experiencing a slump in form that makes them a rather unattractive option. Sale have also been linked with a possible move for Ford, with his older brother Joe playing there for three years before moving to Yorkshire Carnegie this year.

Ford's contract with Bath will now end at the end of the season (Getty)
Ford scored a try in Saturday's 37-21 victory over South Africa (Getty)

His former club, Leicester Tigers, may be interested in taking him back on their books, but with Owen Williams and Freddie Burns currently at Welford Road, it is an unlikely option unless one of them moves on at the end of the season. Progress is likely to be slow on the matter, with Ford not allowed to discuss a move until January 1 as he is still contracted to Bath, and the most likely option at the moment is for the England international to renegotiate an improved deal with Bath to remain at The Recreation Ground.