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Landmark Danish judgment on footballers’ terms of employment

November 2007 - Employment. Legal Developments by Norrbom Vinding Law Firm, member of ius laboris.

More articles by this firm.

The Danish Football Association (DBU) not bound by collective agreement between players and clubs

In a claim brought by the Danish Players' Union, the Court found in favour of the Danish Football Association, represented by Norrbom Vinding.

The question at issue was whether the Danish Football Association was entitled to continue determining the terms of employment of Danish football players by virtue of the standard players' contract issued and used by the Danish Football Association since the advent of professional football in Denmark in the late 1970s. The standard players' contract, which all Danish football players must use to play professionally in Denmark, was introduced to set minimum standards of employment for all players and ensure compliance with UEFA and FIFA rules and regulations.

In 1999, the Danish Players' Union signed a collective agreement with the Danish League Association, which represents the Danish football league clubs. However, the collective agreement conflicted with the standard players' contract on a number of points and the Danish Players' Union issued proceedings in 2003, submitting that the Danish Football Association was bound by the collective agreement and therefore not entitled to include any conflicting provisions in the standard players' contract. In response, the Danish Football Association submitted among other things that it was not bound by a collective agreement it was not a party to.

The Court found for the Danish Football Association on all points.

More specifically, the Court held that since football players' employment was governed by association law, the Danish Football Association, being an association, was bound only by legislation and its by-laws. No duty to comply with a collective agreement which the Danish Football Association was not a party to, however, arose out of either the rules and regulations of the Danish Football Association, UEFA or FIFA or employment or labour law and, on those grounds, the Danish Football Association had the authority by virtue of the standard players' contract to determine football players' terms of employment. Further, there was nothing to indicate that this state of the law was in conflict with Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights on freedom of assembly and association.

The case shows that:

  • Within the organisational framework of Danish football, there is no basis for departing from the starting point of labour law that only the parties to a collective agreement will be bound by it;
  • The standard players' contract for Danish football players is legally based on association law and its starting point that an association is entitled to issue rules and regulations which are binding on its members, subject to its by-laws and applicable legislation; and
  • This is also the starting point for an association structure such as this which is linked together by sub-associations and their members

For further information please contact

Marianne Granhøj

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