We have probably all signed our fair share of contracts in our time. Whether that be for a new house, a new mobile phone or when starting a new job, contracts are a formal way of committing to something. They are proof that you have come to a mutual agreement with another party, stating that you will abide by all of the said terms and will not breach any agreements reached in your contract.
In football, we see some of the most coveted contracts signed by some of the most high profile individuals for enormous sums. The contracts signed are normally much talked about and very much kept in the eye of the public. We all know how much half of the Man City team earn a week for example, and how little lower league players earn in comparison.
Unless you live under a rock, or have been on media lockdown of late, you will know that we have recently seen Arsenal Captain Robin Van Persie announce on his personal website his desire to leave the club regardless of the contract he is currently under. With a year left on his current deal, he still spoke out against the terms he was subject to, effectively cutting all affiliation with his current employees, and putting himself in the shop window for any other club to secure his services.
Should this turn into a growing trend, there is a serious concern for the way our beautiful game could be heading. The security that a contract offers a club of keeping hold of its best players from big money moves could count for nothing, as individuals speak out anyway and make their position at clubs virtually untenable.
However, the problem is just as much that of the clubs as it the players. The fact of the matter is, a team of Arsenal’s organisational stature shouldn’t be letting a star player such as Robin Van Persie get down to the last year of his contract in the first place. In this specific example, the Gunners could learn a thing or two from their North London rivals Tottenham, who sensibly tied down the services of star players Gareth Bale and Kyle Walker on long term contracts this summer, and have since remained committed to the club.
Robin Van Persie is not the first example of this we have seen, nor will he be the last. Gareth Barry, Pierre Van Hooijdonk and even Wayne Rooney have all put their clubs in these positions, a predicament of whether or not to sell the player in question. Thus proving the consistent inability of clubs to wisen up to the motives of the modern day footballer. Now more concerned with monetary wealth than domestic triumphs, clubs need to adapt to what the modern day footballer has become and not assume that they possess such loyalties that they may have done in a former era.
Whilst the reaction to Robin Van Persie’s statement may provoke anger amongst the Arsenal faithful due to the way he went about his business, technically he has done nothing wrong given the freedom of his contract. His club however, should have possessed the authority to sell him for maximum profit sooner or renew his contract long before the situation arose.
As financial prowess is just as important as sporting ability in football nowadays, those clubs faced with losing players to their more money laden rivals need to adapt their own models suitably to keep their prospects alive. The security of a contract needs to be the first port of call, and keeping individuals subject to the demand of the club can only be achieved with a long term deal honoured by both parties. Should an agreement not be reached long in advance, a transfer for maximum profit is surely the next priority, with minimal impact on the rest of the team. The recent comparative successes of Tottenham can, to some extent, be seen thanks to strengths in this department of their clubs management.
As cliché as it sounds, the beautiful game has changed considerably from what it was twenty or thirty years ago. No longer can clubs rely on player’s loyalty, as individual talents now focus their attention on financial imperatives rather than pledging allegiance to a club they love being a part of for the right reasons. Until clubs realise and catch on to a growing trend amongst players, the sanctity of a contract might not offer the safety net it once could unless agreed long in advance and with the willingness of the player.
The fact that players can announce their ambitions to move elsewhere, and within the freedom of their contracts, is a dangerous precedent we are yet to escape. It is something clubs will need to put a stop to in order for our game to remain an entertaining, competitive and compelling one.