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FIFA adopts temporary legal measures in relation to the war in Ukraine.

A week after FIFA imposed a rigid sanction on Russian teams by banning them from all international football, FIFA now temporarily enables all foreign players and coaches in Ukraine & Russia to (temporarily) get out of their respective employment agreements.

Today, FIFA announced new temporary measures regarding employment and registration rules in relation to the war in Ukraine.

They are included in a temporary annexe to the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (Annexe 7) with the title “temporary rules addressing the exceptional situation deriving from the war in Ukraine”.

The decisions are as follows:

- The situation in Ukraine: All foreign players and coaches’ employment contracts affiliated to the Ukrainian association of Football (UAF) will be deemed automatically suspended (unless explicitly agreed otherwise by both parties) until the end of the season (30 june 2022). This implies that no action from the parties is needed to terminate their employment relationship.

- The situation regarding Minors: Article 19 of the FIFA RSTP prohibits the international transfer of minors (players below the age of 18). The same provision however stipulates 5 exceptions to this rule, one of them relating directly to refugee minors fleeing their home countries for humanitarian reasons, FIFA has adopted a new measure indicating that all minors fleeing from Ukraine are automatically deemed to fulfil the requirements of this exceptional provision.

-The situation in Russia:All foreign players and coaches will be granted the right to unilaterally terminate their employment contracts with the Football Union of Russia until the end of the season (30 june 2022). Clubs have until the 10th of march to reach a mutual agreement with their players and coaches.

The direct consequence of the above mentioned decisions is that all those foreign players and coaches in Russia & Ukraine will be considered “free agents” and will be at liberty to sign with a new club with no legal consequences.

They will be allowed to sign with a new club even if the registration period in the relevant country is closed at the moment (which is worldwide), the deadline for this exception to apply is April 7th 2022. Clubs are entitled to register a maximum of 2 players benefitting from this exception to the rule.

Something to consider is what happens after the end of the season (30 June 2022)? Are players and coaches then supposed to return to Russia and reinstate their employment relationship with their former clubs for the rest of the duration of their contracts? And where does this leave their “new” clubs? It’s likely that FIFA will come forward with a solution for such cases soon, once there’s more clarity on the duration of the war.

This is the exact concern FIFpro has been struggling with, the largest player’s union who had previously had requested FIFA to enable players and coaches to permanently get out of all Russian contracts.

FIFA and other sporting organisations have already imposed a wide range of sanctions on Russia, and the previously described measures showcase the importance of flexibility and adaptability when it comes to the interpretation and execution of the legal framework laid out by international Sports organisations.

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