What is the legal framework for individual transfers? What restrictions can be placed on individuals moving between clubs?

Swedish employment law is generally applicable to the relationship between clubs and athletes within all sports. It has been well established that athletes in the most commercialised team sports (eg, football and ice hockey) are regarded as employees. Many team sports prescribe that standard form contracts are to be used to govern employment relationships between clubs and players. The standard forms are set out by the governing bodies (such as the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation and the Swedish Football Association) following consultation with the body that represents the players in that sport. In some sports these standard employment contracts form an integral part of the collective bargaining agreement in place for that sport. Temporary (fixed-term) employments are generally allowed, up to a maximum of two years. Longer fixed-term employments have been agreed in the collective bargaining agreements (such as within football, which allows fixed-term agreements for up to five years). The individuals and clubs must adhere to the transfer restrictions set out by the governing bodies and the corresponding rules from international governing bodies, such as FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players and FIFA Transfer Matching System.

Ending contractual obligations

Can individuals buy their way out of their contractual obligations to professional sports clubs?

Generally, fixed-term employment contracts may only be terminated upon expiry of the contract or by mutual agreement. Most athletes have a fixed-term contract without any provision regarding premature termination. This means that the parties cannot terminate the contract (or the athlete cannot switch club) before the fixed date, unless a material violation of the contract has occurred or if the parties mutually agree to terminate the contract. According to Swedish employment law, it is possible to terminate the employment relationship with immediate effect only if the employee or employer has grossly violated his or her liabilities according to the contract (such as criminal behaviour or doping allegations).

Welfare obligations

What are the key athlete welfare obligations for employers?

The Swedish Sports Confederation works proactively with its member clubs to make sports in Sweden more socially responsible and sustainable by implementing regulations, guidelines and education related to, for example, doping, sports integrity, diversity, inclusion, athletes’ health, insurance matters, sexual harassment and violence in the workplace. Most of these welfare obligations follow from Swedish law as well.

Young athletes

Are there restrictions on the employment and transfer of young athletes?

Young athletes (under the age of 18) can enter into binding agreements (for example, a player’s contract with a club) only with the consent of their guardians. The athlete and the club must adhere to the transfer restrictions set out by the governing bodies (eg, the Swedish Football Association) and the corresponding rules from international governing bodies, such as FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, which prescribes that international transfers are only permitted for players over the age of 18, unless the individual player who is under 18 meets one of three qualifying criteria: (i) if his or her parents move there for non-football reasons; (ii) if he or she is from another country within the EU or EEC and aged between 16 and 18; or (iii) if he or she lives within 100km of the club.

What are the key child protection rules and safeguarding considerations?

Minors in Sweden have limited legal capacity between the ages of 16 and 18. Minors can enter into binding agreements (such as a player’s contract) only with the consent of their guardians. The minor may terminate the agreement with the club on his or her own and - if he or she is 16 - enter into a new player contract with another club without obtaining consent from his or her guardians. The minor or the guardian may terminate the player’s contract with immediate effect, if this is necessary with regard to the minor’s health, development or education. If the guardian has terminated the player’s contract for this reason, the minor is not allowed to enter into any new agreement without the guardian’s consent.

Club and country representation

What employment relationship issues arise when athletes represent both club and country?

The right or obligation for an athlete to represent the national team differs from sport to sport. An elite ice hockey player has an obligation under the player’s contract with the club to represent the national team if so required. In other team sports, the club has an obligation towards the athlete to make sure the athlete is available to represent the national team. Normally the club will pay the player wages and other fees even during the period when he or she is representing the national team.

Selection and eligibility

How are selection and eligibility disputes dealt with by national bodies?

The principle task of selecting athletes to the relevant games and competitions lies with the club, the special sports federation or, in the run-up to major sporting events such as the Olympic Games, the Swedish Olympic Committee. The relevant eligibility and selection criteria differ from sport to sport and can include matters such as nationality, gender, age or results in certain specified competitions. In circumstances where disputes arise and athletes seek to appeal against the decision of the selectors, the rules governing the athlete’s relationship with the club, the relevant special sports federation and the Swedish Sports Confederation’s statutes set out the terms for the athlete’s right of appeal. Decisions from the Swedish Olympic Committee may be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

What are the key taxation issues for foreign athletes competing in your jurisdiction to be aware of?

Payment of remuneration to non-resident athletes may be made on particularly favourable tax terms for a limited period of time in accordance with the rules of the Act on Special Income Tax for Non-resident Artists and Others (SFS 1991:591, A-SINK). The applicable A-SINK tax rate is 15 per cent. If the athlete frequently stays in Sweden during a continuous period of six months, he or she will generally be considered to be resident in Sweden. In such a scenario, the A-SINK tax would not be applicable.

A non-resident athlete who derives taxable income from Sweden must, as a rule, also pay tax in his or her country of residence. To avoid double taxation of the same income, Sweden has entered into double taxation treaties with other countries. Double taxation is generally eliminated through the credit method. Without any double taxation treaty, there is an apparent risk of double taxation.