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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 07:29 GMT 08:29 UK
Webster case is the 'new Bosman'
Scotland defender Andy Webster
Webster must pay compensation for breaking his contract
Football union leaders say the decision to allow Andy Webster's contract break with Hearts is a "landmark" case set to rival the Bosman ruling.

Webster is the first player to use Fifa regulations to walk out on a club after an established 'protected period'.

The defender left Hearts to join Wigan after being frozen out of the team when contract talks broke down.

"The outcome of this is that football players have increased rights," said SPFA general secretary Fraser Wishart.

Scotland international Webster successfully invoked Article 17 of the Fifa transfer regulations to cancel his contract at Tynecastle.

For players under the age of 28 the protected period is three years of a contract, and for those 28 or over when signing the contract the protected period is two years.

A 15-day notice period has to be served before a player can invoke the ruling and then a compensation fee must be decided.

The player is then free to find a new club, providing the switch is to another country.

Wishart denied that the ruling would plunge the game into chaos and argued that it would help reduce "exorbitant" transfer fees.

I think this will help to rationalise the transfer market
Fraser Wishart
SPFA general secretary

"Footballers are entitled to the same freedom of movement and contract rights as any other employee in the European Union or global market place," he said.

"I believe this decision will prove to be a landmark and will enable many players to enjoy greater freedom of employment.

"I think this will help to rationalise the transfer market.

"Certainly at the highest level some of the transfer fees that are paid are exorbitant and I think this will help work that out as well."

Fifpro, the world players' union, said that the ruling resembled the decision made in 1995 by the European Court of Justice on the Belgian player Jean-Marc Bosman.

He sued for "restraint of trade" and won after his club refused to let him move on because they did not offer a high enough transfer fee.

Consequently, players were allowed to move for free after their deals were completed and restrictions on the number of players from different EU countries were also scrapped.

On the Webster decision, Fifpro representative Tony Higgins said: "(It) will be of great interest within the football world and will have to be recognised by all clubs, players, agents, national associations and confederations as an official part of a player's rights as set by the world governing body of football."


Webster, who has been ordered to pay Hearts 625,000, may try to have the fee reduced but is delighted that the complex test case has been settled.

"When a footballer is stopped from doing what he enjoys most, and that is playing the game, naturally he will seek to have that situation resolved," he said.

"Now that a decision has been made I can now focus on playing football again.

"I also hope it will be of benefit to other players who find themselves in a similar situation to the one I found myself in at Hearts."

Webster was cleared to move from Wigan to Rangers on loan but injury has prevented the 25-year-old from playing at Ibrox.

Webster must pay Hearts 625,000
04 May 07 |  Heart of Midlothian
Uefa to discuss Bosman drawbacks
15 Dec 05 |  Football


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