The PFA warns non-league players about upcoming contract changes

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) has warned its members about changes to the standard contract for non-league players that will reduce money for players with long-term injuries and make it easier for clubs to terminate their contracts.

Under the new contract, which comes into force on 1 July, injured players in the National League will only be paid full wages for 12 weeks, before moving to ‘club sick pay’ of £99.35 per week for up to 28 weeks. For players below the fifth level of English football, full salary will only be offered for six weeks.

Under the current contract, injured players are eligible for full pay for the term of their contracts, unless an independent medical expert determines that the injury is career-ending and then the contract can be terminated after three months’ notice.

Players can continue to receive their full wages upon injury but only with the club’s consent and this will require the player to be ‘selected’ by ticking the box on the first page of the new contract. The PFA is concerned that ticking this box could be the difference between receiving or not receiving a contract for many players.

Furthermore, the new contract will allow clubs to terminate a player’s deal, with three months’ notice, if a “doctor at the direction of the club” determines that he is unable to play due to injury or illness for four months.

The change in language here is from a player being “permanently incapacitated” to simply having a “long-term injury”, with that decision being made by a club-appointed medic, rather than an independent expert.

The PFA is not officially responsible for players outside the top four divisions of English football, but nearly four in five players in the National League were members of the PFA earlier in their careers, either as full-time professionals or scholars in the English Football League or Premier League academies. .

The Football Association, which runs non-league football, asked the association to comment on the proposed changes but was told, despite constructive talks, that the association could not support the new contract as it believed it was inferior to the existing one.

On Monday afternoon, the PFA sent an email, which the athlete Watch, for its members who may be considering an offer from a non-league club this summer.

“Unfortunately, we believe that the new non-league contract represents a reduction in player rights, and so it is important that you understand these changes and what they might mean for you,” he warned.

However, the background to the changes is the intense financial pressure many non-league club owners are under, as more teams turn fully professional and the competition for promotion to the English Football League becomes more fierce.

More than half of the 24 teams in the National League this season are former Premier League clubs, with teams such as Wrexham and Notts County billing wages making them contenders for the League Two title.

Most National League clubs have yet to submit their annual accounts for last season, but Chesterfield – a well-run and owned club currently fourth in the table – lost £2m in the 2021-22 season. Two former Premier League clubs, Scunthorpe United and Southend United, have struggled hard to pay their bills on time this season.

Neither the FA nor the National League responded to requests for comment.


Go deeper

Broken, Forgotten, and Financially Exposed: How Non-League Footballers Deal With Career-Threatening Injuries

(Photo: Getty Images)


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