Date: 13th May 2008 at 4:13pm
Written by:

Gareth Barry and the Liverpool Saga?

I have been reading all the threads, gossip and speculation about what is becoming ‘The Gareth Barry to Liverpool Saga’ and it has set me wondering about the whole concept of player’s contracts and transfers.

We have come a very long way from the times, just after the last war, when the football club virtually ‘owned’ the football player. The Bosman ruling was good for the game overall and good for the players, but, and this is important, players are still required commit themselves to a football club and sign a contract to that effect. And, if the team they sign for is in the Premier League then they are very, very well paid for their services.

However, what is also important is the ethics that are implied by the signing of that contract; ethics that apply to both to the player and to the club. In simple terms when a player signs, say, a three year
contract he makes a commitment and gives an undertaking to play his very best for the club throughout that time. While the club gives an undertaking, to pay his wages and to look after his physical well being during the same period. No doubt there are many clauses tacked on, but I am sure that none of those clauses state that if the player decides he wants to leave he can go at a nominal fee to whichever club he chooses and, in Gareth Barry’s case, £10m. is a nominal fee.

There is another side to this contract business as well; suppose the club signs a contract with a player who does not fit into the team ethos or who can adjust to the demands of the Premier League? What then? Well, we have seen several very highly paid players sitting there in the reserves or out on loan taking their massive weekly wages come what may. And, if they don’t want to move to another club for lower wages, they either sit there and take the money for the duration of their contract, or the club has to agree a fee to pay up the contract. Either way the player wins.

On one level that is not a problem: being a professional footballer has a short life span, but it cannot all be one way. In my book if someone signs a contract, which may have taken months to negotiate, one makes a commitment to fulfil that contract whatever it entails. The same conditions apply to both sides where that is concerned.

Clearly no-one but MON and GB know what was said in their discussions when MON persuaded GB to sign a new contract with Villa, but you can rest assured that MON talked about Gareth getting back into the England team with his help. I know it is only conjecture, but I genuinely wonder if GB would have made such brilliant progress in the last twelve months if MON had not been around? Frankly, I doubt it.

So why does GB suddenly want to leave Villa Park? Reportedly it is because he now wants to play Champions League football. Do you really think that in their discussions MON promised GB Champions League this next season? No, of course he did not, he knew it was not really feasible in that time scale and so did GB when he signed. With the help of MON and his team GB’s game has developed and matured. That is good for him and good for Villa, but why should it be good for one of our rivals, namely one of the so called ‘big four’ one of whom we intend to replace this year.

If Gareth really must have Champions League football this coming season then it would be perfectly ethically correct for the management of Aston Villa FC to say to him, ‘Fine, you can go, but at a fee determined by us and to a team with whom we are not in immediate competition; in other words a team on the continent.’

Think about it! In business many employers insist upon a clause in an employees contract that states that they cannot leave and go to a business rival without a break of say six to twelve months, and that has been held to be fair and reasonable by the courts, so why not in football. If my memory serves me correct, Man Ure did it recently, why can’t we do the same?