Skip to main content

Free article section

You are reading a Free article. Apply for a subscription to access all the valuable information on the website Sports Law & Taxation

Football: Jurisdiction Clauses in Player Contracts of Employment

By Ennio Bovolenta, Valloni Attorneys at Law, Zurich, Switzerland

On 23 February 2024, the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) (the Swiss Supreme Court) rendered a very interesting and important decision concerning the interpretation of a jurisdiction clause inserted in a football player’s employment contract.

The decision in question (4A_430/2023, decision of 23 February 2024) referred to a dispute between a Russian player (Player) and a Hungarian club (Club) and, specifically, to the related award issued by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on 6 July 2023 (CAS 2022/A/8571).

This case is of particular interest as it touches upon the notion of “international dimension” under the FIFA Regulation on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) and the possibility of excluding FIFA and CAS jurisdiction in favour of national courts.

On 6 August 2020, the Player and the Club entered into an employment contract, which contained the following clause (art. 49, the Jurisdiction Clause):

"The Parties agree that they shall make efforts to settle their possible dispute in amicable way by negotiations. If these efforts fail - in cases determined by the rules of MLSZ [the Hungarian Football Federation] or FIFA - the Parties may turn to the organizational units with MLSZ or FIFA scope of authority, in case of labour dispute to the Administrative and Labour Court having competence and scope of authority, and in all other disputes arising out of their legal relationship the Parties stipulate the exclusive jurisdiction of the Sport Standing Arbitration Court based on the Article 47 of the Sports Law. The number of arbitrators is three; the procedure is determined by the Procedural Rules of the Arbitration Court."

On 31 January 2021, the Club informed the Player that, with immediate effect, he would be part of the Club’s second team and that his salary would be reduced by 50%, in accordance with another clause of the contract.  The Player contested the Club’s decision and, in June 2021, terminated the employment contract and lodged a claim against the Club before the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC), requesting the payment of the unpaid salaries and compensation for breach of contract.

On 3 November 2021, the DRC partially accepted the claim, ordering the Club to pay various amounts to the Player and considering that the Jurisdiction Clause did not clearly and exclusively establish the competence of the labour court in Hungary”.

The Club appealed the DRC decision to the CAS. In the following award, the CAS Sole Arbitrator upheld the appeal, considering that the Jurisdiction Clause “established the exclusive jurisdiction of the Administrative and Labour Courts in employment-related disputes between the Parties”.

The case was then appealed to the SFT, which, firstly, recalled that, pursuant to Swiss Law, the interpretation of an arbitration agreement is governed by the general rules of contract interpretation. Therefore, the interpreter must first uncover the real and common intention of the parties (art. 5.2).

The SFT observed that, the case being a dispute of international dimension between a Russian player and a Hungarian club, the Sole Arbitrator correctly started his analysis from Art. 22 (1) (b) of the RSTP, which states:

Without prejudice to the right of any player to seek redress before a civil court for employment-related disputes, FIFA is competent to hear:  (…) b) employment – related disputes between a club and a player of an international dimension; the aforementioned parties may, however, explicitly opt in writing for such disputes to be decided by an independent arbitration tribunal that has been established at national level within the framework of the association and/or a collective bargaining agreement. Any such arbitration clause must be included either directly in the contract or in a collective bargaining agreement applicable on the parties. The independent national arbitration tribunal must guarantee fair proceedings and respect the principal of equal representations of players and clubs”.

In continuation, the SFT concurred with the Sole Arbitrator’s interpretation of the Jurisdiction Clause: the Parties had opted clearly and exclusively to submit their labour disputes to the Hungarian judicial authority (the "Administrative and Labour Courts"), distinguishing them from the other cases that should go to FIFA and CAS.

The SFT, therefore, dismissed the Player’s arguments that the clause provided for an ”alternative jurisdiction”. In so doing, the SFT found similarities with another case (decision 4A_2/2023 of October 6, 2023, at 3.4 in an appeal against the award in CAS 2021/A/7775), where:

it considered that the agreement did not express a sufficiently clear intention of the parties to exclude certain disputes from state jurisdiction and to have them decided by an arbitral tribunal, which is why there is no room for the utilitarian concept, according to which an understanding of the contract that leaves the arbitration agreement in place should be sought if possible”.

In conclusion, the decision in the present case is consistent with the SFT jurisprudence, according to which, if the parties intend to exclude state court jurisdiction, this must be clear in order to agree to have recourse to a court of arbitration. However, this did not occur in this case.

As a key takeaway, this decision confirms the SFT case law and further confirms that, when drafting a jurisdiction clause in a football player‘s contract of employment, it is advisable to be absolutely clear and not to leave any room for any ambiguity!

The Author may be contacted by e-mail at ‘This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Interesting article?

Take your own subscription to get easy online access to all valuable articles of Sports Law & Taxation