Nick De Marco QC has told Sky Sports News that out-of-contract players can walk away from their respective clubs from June 30 despite a FIFA move to extend the deals until the season ends.
All football has been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic with no date yet set for when it is safe to resume.
The Premier League and EFL are aiming to conclude the campaign, when safe, with the likelihood the 2019-20 season will extend into June and July – beyond the expiry date of many contracts.
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However, De Marco QC has warned players cannot legally be forced to continue playing for the club beyond the contract expiry date.
“Legally, they cannot be forced to continue to play for the club,” said De Marco.
“Nobody can force them to do so; FIFA, the FA, the club or anybody else. If they want to walk away, that’s a matter for them but it will really be a matter of whether, financially, that makes sense for them.
“What you’re most likely to see as a preferred option is probably very short-term extensions of contracts based on existing salary terms. That won’t suit everyone, and it can’t be forced on anyone in England.
“For example, if you’re a player coming towards the end of your contract and, perhaps, the end of your career, maybe you only have one more contract left, you may be very reluctant to sign a contract for only a few weeks or an indeterminate period of time.
“If you’re a lower league club, financially stressed, you won’t be wanting to pay players beyond June 30. So, a one-size-fits-all solution isn’t going to work. It’s going to depend on each case. The key is going to be agreements.”
He added: “If the players are out of contract then, so far as the law is concerned, they’re no longer employees and they’re free to walk away.
“The real issue is, ‘Do players walk away or not?’. That will depend on the circumstances of each case.”