Beating a football player in Legia?

beating a football player

Can beating a footballer by fans be a rationale for contract termination?

In Poland, after the 18th round of the Polish Ekstraklasa League in the 2021/2022 season, Legia Warszawa occupies the last place in the league. However, the fans of the capital team are used to success and – at least – a fight for the championship title every single season. If media reports are to be believed, the most radical groups of fans gave vent to their emotions after yet another lost match of the current Polish Champion by breaking into the bus and attacking the club’s players. Media rumours even talk about beating Luquinhas and Mahir Emreli. As media says, the latter’s injuries were so serious that he could not attend the next training. A discussion ensued: Can the Legia players terminate their contracts with the club and move to another team? Will this be termination of the contract due to the club’s fault ?

When can a player terminate his contract with the club?

Every contract can be terminated if there are special circumstances. In football, additional grounds for termination of a player’s contract are set out in internal association regulations set by PZPN and FIFA. Polish regulations list examples of when a football contract can be terminated, although there is also a very general provision that can be invoked in unforeseen situations. The PZPN’s judicial bodies are rather reluctant to use it.

FIFA, on the other hand, has adopted a very general provision. It allows a party to free itself from a contract if the other party grossly breaches the terms of the contract. Such a broad clause is further clarified in case law.

Examples of situations in which the contract can be terminated are:

  1. delays in payment of wages;
  2. failure of the player to attend training;
  3. playing very few minutes per season.

The possibilities are much wider, but the ones presented above are the most common examples in practice, not arousing legal controversy.

There have already been similar cases

There has already been a case in the past in which a football player was attacked by fans. There was also a Polish aspect to this case. Spas Delev, known to Polish fans from his time playing for Pogoń Szczecin, was the victim of violence on Bulgarian football fields. The attacks on the footballer took the form of psychological and physical violence. In other words, insults were hurled at the player and his physical integrity was at least violated. The climax of the case was the fans’ invasion of the pitch and direct attack on the players of the Bulgarian Beroe. After this incident Spas Delev unilaterally terminated his contract with the club.

Beating on the club’s premises can be a reason for contract termination

Delev’s case went before a FIFA court, which ruled that physical attacks on the player by fans do not constitute reprehensible behaviour by the club and are not grounds for contract termination. This decision was appealed by the player, supported by Pogoń Szczecin, who at the time was already the player’s current club. In the second instance, the case went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne (CAS). The latter disagreed with FIFA’s interpretation and ruled that Spas Delev had legitimately terminated his contract with the Bulgarian club.

The club’s efforts in providing protection to the player are key

In such situations, it is crucial to assess whether the club did everything it could to protect the player from the violence. It is irrelevant whether the beating took place at the club’s headquarters, on the club’s bus or on the pitch – what is important is that it was directly related to the player’s duties. The club will not be held responsible if a player was hypothetically assaulted while enjoying his free time in the park. The media reports on Luquinhas and Emrelli speak of an attack on the club’s bus while returning from a league match.

If the media coverage is true, it is possible that the players could have their contracts with the club terminated. Moreover, in such a situation Legia Warszawa will have to pay compensation to the players. The key factor in the assessment will be whether the capital city club did everything it could to prevent the situation from happening – e.g. did it notify the police early enough about the threat, was it justified to let the fans on the bus or not (it might have been justified if it served the purpose of relieving tension and allowed to avoid much more serious consequences such as breaking windows), did the club know about the fans’ planned action.

There are still many unknowns in the case, and it is the detailed circumstances that will be crucial. Although the case law allows for termination of a contract due to beating of a player by fans, each such situation should be assessed individually and based on media reports alone, the final outcome of the case is difficult to predict.

If the players decided to take legal action, the case would most likely be resolved by FIFA, with CAS being the higher instance. We still have to wait for the final decision.


Beating a player may be grounds for contract termination if the club has neglected its obligations to ensure the player’s safety. Ultimately, such cases are decided by the courts – the Football Arbitration Tribunal of the Polish Football Association (PZPN) or the Dispute Resolution Chamber of FIFA.

Author: Mateusz Witkowski