Given the horrific injury sustained by Ireland’s Seamus Coleman it is an appropriate time to consider the protections afforded to football clubs by the FIFA Club Protection Programme (“the CPP”). The CPP was designed to ameliorate the financial impact on professional football clubs of incapacitating injuries suffered by their players whilst on national duty and therefore under the care of national football federations. This is the primary rationale behind the existence of the programme. An incapacitating injury is an injury that renders the player incapable of fulfilling his contractual obligations to his club by preventing them from playing and training.

CPP – the mechanics

It is surprising that it took until 2012 for FIFA, the governing body of football, to introduce the CPP. It was created to combat the growing unrest amongst clubs regarding the lack of financial contribution towards the cost of the clubs losing a player through injury sustained on national duty. In operation, the CPP is similar to an insurance policy in that it covers the cost for clubs of players who suffer a temporary total disablement (“TTD”). In practice the CPP has the effect of limiting the costs incurred by clubs (the amount of compensation payable by clubs to players) in relation to players who are prevented from participating in footballing activities. The CPP sets out a minimum period of 28 consecutive days during which a player must be unable to play as a result of a TTD suffered whilst on international duty. It should be noted that the CPP does not apply to minor injuries. The CPP enables clubs to claim compensation of up to a maximum amount of €143,836 (£112,731) per week in relation to a player’s wages where that player has suffered a TTD. The total annual budget put aside by FIFA for the CPP is €100m (£78.4m).

Club/Country conflict

Resentment and tension between clubs and national federations has festered over recent years, particularly in relation to the standards of treatment and medical assessments which players receive whilst on national duty. Clubs regularly form the view that unnecessary risks are taken with their players. Famously Sir Alex Ferguson, the former manager of Manchester United, was perceived to be opposed to non-competitive international duty. He was regularly accused of encouraging his players to decline non-competitive international call ups for fear of them picking up injuries before the domestic season had reached its end. The introduction of new powers compelling clubs to release their players under Annex 1 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players has had the effect of straining relationships between club and country even further. We need only look towards the frosty relationship and public fall out between Martin O’Neill and Ronald Koeman in relation to the fitness of Everton and Republic of Ireland midfielder James McCarthy to appreciate how high the stakes have become. This is particularly so given the increased commercialised nature of the Premier League and the ever increasing financial stakes for all involved. With that in mind, it is unsurprising that the CPP has been introduced by FIFA.

Limitations of the CPP

Whilst the introduction of the CPP has been welcomed by most, its application has not been without criticism. Most notably the CPP has been criticised that the protection only extends to cover wages up to €143,836 a week or less. The practical reality is that €143,836 in some instances may be less than half of the weekly salary of the player. The net result of this cap is that clubs inevitably must bear some cost in relation to a player who is injured whilst on national duty whilst also being deprived of their services for a period. The CPP also applies a one year limitation period insofar as it will only cover injuries lasting 365 days or less. The cover extends to a maximum cost of €7.5 million per player. In that sense, the CPP is of limited use to clubs whose players are forced to retire as a result of the injuries suffered whilst on international duty. It is also interesting to note that it appears that once the CPP fund of €100 million is fully exhausted, clubs seeking compensation will be unable to do so. In its current guise the CPP is very much a “first come, first served” process, which seems to have the potential to operate unsatisfactorily.

The turnover of FIFA from the 2014 World Cup alone was approximately £3.3 billion and the anticipated revenue of UEFA from Euro 2016 was another £1.6 billion. Players incapacitated whilst mandated by FIFA regulations, are on “loan” from their “owner” or employer to the national federations. It is reasonable to suggest that, in light of recent improvements made through CPP, football’s governing body still may not be adequately contributing their fair share of compensation.