Andrew Webster CAS Award Commentary

Article excerpt

Preamble

As the lawyer of Andrew Webster, I have probably talked and wrote about the "Webster case" more than a hundred times and it is somehow difficult to summarize such a long and winding road in some minutes or pages. The case was known as a new revolution in football when I had never had that idea. Article 17 of the FIFA Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players is so uneasy to interpret for anyone in football, even the most experienced lawyer, that I must say that Webster is just another brick on the wall of the construction of the relationship between clubs and footballers.

We shall see other bricks and some layer between them coming in the future and this case was just the beginning of the story but at least it was known as the first one where a player correctly and regulatory used his right to end his contract after the FIFA "protected period".

Facts

Remember just a few of the facts of the case. On 30 March 2007 18 year old Andy Webster signed for Heart of Midlothian LC (Hearts) from Arbroath club, two Scottish clubs, for a transfer fee of 75,000 GBP.

Webster signed a contract due to run from the 31st of March, 2001 to the 30th of June, 2005. On July 1st, 2003 Andy Webster signed a contractual extension with Hearts until the 30th of June, 2007.

Andy Webster's progression as a player was steady and strong. He had become one of the most important player's at Hearts as a leader in their defence, and a Scottish international. Hearts were keen to tie down Mr. Webster to a longer contract with improved terms in order to secure the long term future of one of their prize players.

However, Andy Webster rejected this contractual offer until 2009, in fact he rejected several subsequent offers, giving the impression that Andy Webster was ready to move on to a bigger club, despite his success with his long term Scottish club.

During this period of contractual negotiations Mr. Webster was seemingly frozen out of the first team and forced to watch many of his team's matches from the sidelines. Hearts went even through the Scottish Cup to its final and Andy was not in the starting team when he had been of its best components. For a Scot not to be in his final was surely a big disappointment and the beginning of the end of the relationship.

The relations between him and the club continued to simmer until eventually they reached their boiling point. One of the Club's major shareholders made negative and critical remarks regarding Andy Webster to the media.

Mr. Webster decided he had enough of what he perceived to be unfair treatment and approached the Scottish Professional Footballer's Association (SPFA) seeking counsel and recourse against his club for the statements of their most important shareholder.

They advised Mr. Webster that the best action would be to lodge a claim in writing requesting to terminate his contract with just cause according to Article 18 of his employment contract. However, with the prospect of missing the entire 2006-2007 season because of a ongoing court procedure Mr. Webster opted to take an alternate rough and unilaterally terminate his contract without just cause making his case falling under the scope of Article 17 of the FIFA Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players.

After having notified Hearts of his intention to breach his contract, and leaving the club without their official consent Andy Webster signed a three year contract with English Club Wigan Athletic FC (Wigan). When the English FA asked the Scottish FA association for the International Transfer Certificate (ITC) of the Player the Scottish FA told the English FA that they would not issue the ITC because the Player was still under contract with Hearts.

On the 31st of August, having approached FIFA with their grievance regarding the issuance of the Player's ITC, Wigan was granted the provisional registration by the Single Judge of the Player's Status Committee. …