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Soccer players seek support to change the legal framework of the profession 37 years later

In 1985, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security headed by Joaquín Almunia

promoted a capital text for Spanish sport. Royal Decree 1006/1985 of June 26 put an end to a legal vacuum in force since the approval in 1980 of the first Statute of Workers of Democracy, which needed sectoral development given the specificity of the work of athletes .

That text was at the time a great milestone that tempered the heated spirits of the soccer players, who since 1979 had promoted three strikes to defend their labor rights. Among other things, it definitively extinguished the right of retention, which in the practice allowed clubs to unilaterally extend the employment relationship with their players indefinitely.

“The problem we have now is that this Royal Decree has been in force for nearly 40 years and is completely out of date”, says María José López, co-director of the legal office of the Association of Spanish Soccer Players (AFE). For this reason, from the main Spanish soccer union they are holding meetings with various political agents to carry out a modification of this legal text.

AFE has already met with the parliamentary groups PSOE, PP and United We Can and in the coming weeks plans to do with the rest of the forces represented in Congress. Communication is also fluid with the two ministries involved, that of Labor and Social Security led by Yolanda Díaz and that of Culture and Sports, with Miquel Iceta at the helm. All of them have been receptive to possible modifications.

Men football players

The 1985 text was written thinking almost exclusively of soccer players. In soccer men, better written. At that time, sports professionalism in Spain was practically limited to them, a reality that has undergone a radical change, both in terms of gender and variety in sports disciplines.

“There are many issues related to women that are very important now and that the Royal Decree does not deal with: equality, gender, maternity, conciliation… It is in the Workers' Statute, yes, but the contract of an athlete ends in six or seven months and that of the majority of workers is not. And it is something that must be addressed,” says López.

The shortcomings of the current regulatory framework also have to do with those athletes who they carry out their profession as self-employed nomos, such as tennis players or golfers, whose particularities are not included in the Royal Decree. The need for a regulatory change, in any case, does not look at the great stars of the sport, but at those who practice it with modest salaries , in many cases only partially.

“The first thing to work on is the definition of a professional athlete, when it is considered that a player should be hired,” López warns. The current text excludes from this consideration those who only receive compensation expenses due to their activity (not registered with Social Security), a path that, in practice, opens the door to undercover contracts and arbitrary biases in many non-professional disciplines and categories. What is known as brown amateurism.

Partiality

The partiality is in this sense a key point, given that the current text states that “the times of concentration prior to the holding of sports competitions or performances, nor those employed in the trips to the place where they are held, without prejudice to the fact that through collective bargaining the treatment and maximum duration of such times”.

Another aspect that AFE intends to modify is that of the maximum extension of the trial periods, limiting it to 15 days. It is currently set at three months, when on many occasions the contracts that are signed have a duration of six or seven. The union also intends to consolidate a minimum compensation for termination of the contract of 12 days per year worked.

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“The athlete has been forgotten by the hand of God for years at the level of regulations in Spain and we have to change that situation”, adds the AFE lawyer, in a context in which, after many years, the political forces seem determined to several sports regulations, modifying the Depo Law rte (procedure that should be completed throughout this year) and promising further development of the Athlete's Statute.

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