Rights of Professional Football Players in Spain if Banned from Training or Dismissed

28 February 2022 - Sven Wassmer

According to reports in the sports press, FC Barcelona was recently considering the option of terminating player Ousmane Dembélé’s contract or banning him from first-team training. Although, in the end, neither of these steps has been put into practice, it is certainly interesting to take a closer look at these kinds of measures and their consequences from a legal perspective.

Sven Wassmer, PhD Abogado & Rechtsanwalt +34 91 319 96 86

In contrast to German law, where dismissal of a professional athlete without just cause results in nullity and reinstatement, in Spain there is a specific regulation on the employment relationship of professional athletes (Royal Decree 1006/1985). Article 15 of this regulation sets out the effects of the dismissal of a professional athlete. In the event of a dismissal without just cause, according to this regulation the dismissal is not null and void. Instead, it is declared unjustified, which means that the athlete is not entitled to reinstatement but only to financial compensation. Unless there is a prior agreement on the compensatory amount (for example, in the employment contract or a subsequent agreement) the compensation is established depending on the circumstances of each individual case and must not be less than two months’ salary. Conditions that can have a bearing on the amount are, among others, whether the athlete has the possibility to sign an employment contract with another club (for instance, due to the dismissal having occurred before the transfer window), how old the athlete is or whether he or she is injured. In some cases, the club must pay the total outstanding salary until the end of the agreed contractual period. In the specific case of footballer Dembélé, had he been dismissed later than 1 February, when the transfer window was already closed and he could not have signed for another club, it is quite likely that a judge would have awarded him compensation equivalent to his contractual salary until the termination date initially foreseen in his employment contract in June 2022.

Therefore, contrary to German law, the dismissal of an athlete without just cause is possible in Spain, as athletes do not have the right to return to their jobs. They are, however, entitled to financial compensation.

Regarding the possibility of banning athletes from team training, Article 7.4 of Royal Decree 1006/1985 establishes professional athletes’ right to be effectively occupied, prohibiting clubs from banning them from training. If their club does not comply with this provision, athletes can resort to the courts to enforce their right to participate in training sessions. In addition (and more importantly), continued exclusion can entitle athletes to terminate their contracts, resulting in a right to compensation similar in amount to the compensation provided for unlawful dismissals. As a result, it is currently not very common for a club to ban a player from training on a permanent basis without good reason.