A Northamptonshire solicitor has won a landmark football case has won a landmark football case involving force majeure and Covid-19.
Blaser Mills Law sports manager and former professional football player David Winnie has won his complaint to the FIFA Football Tribunal on behalf of Dutch football manager René Hiddink against his former employer, the Football Association of Maldives. [FAM].
A company spokesperson said the decision was significant in its restatement and application of FIFA’s Covid-19 policy and the interaction of that policy with ‘force majeure’ provisions in football contracts. – a clause commonly found in employment contracts which authorizes a party to be exonerated from their obligations in the event of the occurrence of an event beyond reasonable control.
“In January 2021, Mr. Hiddink and FAM agreed to the terms of an employment contract whereby Mr. Hiddink was appointed assistant coach of the Maldives men’s national football team for a three-year term,” said the spokesperson.
“However, just three months into his tenure, the FAM informed Mr Hiddink that football in the Maldives would be suspended indefinitely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and that there were not enough money to continue employing him in his role.
“A few days later, FAM sent Mr. Hiddink a notice of termination, stating that his employment contract was terminated due to the Covid-19 pandemic, referring to the “force majeure” clause in the contract of Mr. Hiddink,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Hiddink filed his claim with the FIFA Tribunal in September 2021, seeking damages equivalent to the remaining value of his employment contract.
The spokesperson added: “FAM resisted the claim, saying the parties had reached a ‘mutual agreement’ to terminate the contract, and that the termination served the ‘common welfare’ of football in the Maldives considering “significant financial and economic losses” caused by the pandemic, which themselves constituted an event of force majeure justifying the termination of the contract.
In its ruling, the FIFA Football Tribunal dismissed FAM’s force majeure defense in its entirety, noting – as Mr Hiddink argued – that the contract was made during the pandemic and therefore the effects of the pandemic could not have been unforeseen. .
“As a result, FAM was ordered to pay Mr. Hiddink the full remaining value of the contract as damages,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Winnie, Head of Sport at Blaser Mills Law, said: “Understandably Mr Hiddink is absolutely delighted with this result and our client’s stance and courage to take this matter to the FIFA Football Tribunal has been appreciated. fully justified.
“A force majeure defense based on Covid-19 cannot be used as a general justification to exempt a party from its contractual obligations, and each situation must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“This decision confirms FIFA’s ‘termination without cause’ regulations and sends a clear message to football around the world about the parameters and limits of using a force majeure defense during Covid-19. We would like to thank Ashley Cukier of Littleton Chambers for her assistance and expertise throughout this matter.”