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National League captains write to FA calling for talks over ‘shocking’ contract changes

National League captains unite as they write to the FA calling for talks over ‘shocking’ contract changes imposed for next season.

Footballers are furious and dismayed at the Football Association’s changes to their contracts for next season, and now demand for an urgent conversation to resolve this matter.

Starting from the 1st of July, the FA has implemented new conditions on contracts of non league players. This will give clubs the ability to cancel short deals due to illness or injury without incurring financial loss.

According to the new terms, injured players in National League will not receive their full compensation for the next 12 weeks.

Clubs may then reduce their wages to the statutory sickness pay rate of £99.35 per week for 28 consecutive weeks – until they feel fit again.

If they are injured before receiving their full wages after six weeks, those below the fifth tier may not receive full wages until six weeks have elapsed.

Clubs must opt out of automatic pay cuts unless they make an exception. Players must opt in when signing contracts.

If a club-instructed doctor determines that a player will be unable to play for at least four months, their contract can be terminated. Players will receive three months notice. This could mean players with ACL tears or Achilles ruptures as well as long-term injuries may be allowed back into the game.

All 24 National League captains have signed a letter addressed to Mark Bullingham, FA CEO, and Mark Ives, National League General Manager.

Players were surprised to hear from the Professional Football Association (PFA), rather than either FA or League officials. As a result, they are now seeking urgent talks.

Peter Clarke of Oldham, who sits on the PFA board of players, suggested earlier this week that players may go on strike in response to this development.

The letter from the National League captains read: “As a collective we are writing to you on behalf of all National League players who are shocked and frustrated at the significant changes which are being proposed to the standard non-league contract.

“If implemented, these changes will have a serious and negative impact on the rights of players, particularly those who suffer injuries and illness.

“22 of the 24 teams currently competing in the National League are fully professional. Football to us is more than just a game. It is our livelihood and the sole mechanism for financially supporting our families.

“Our clubs expect us to put our bodies on the line each week. That, naturally, brings with it the constant and serious risk of injury and mental health pressures. The apparent decision to allow clubs to easily dispose of players who pick up injuries or suffer illness is unacceptable.

“We understand and support the need to create a sustainable financial structure within the football pyramid.

“However, we fundamentally disagree that this should involve eroding the duty of care a club owes its players.

“What is most concerning is that the very people who are put at physical and financial risk by this proposed move the players themselves – have been locked out of the decision-making process. This is completely unacceptable.

“These changes give clubs the option of terminating a player’s contract or reducing their income to statutory sick pay in the event of an injury or illness. This makes an already unstable job even more unstable, to the point where for many it will be untenable. These changes put players under significant stress, knowing that we are always at risk from losing our income and being unable to work.

“We are seeking urgent talks with The FA and the National League to clarify the situation and provide an acceptable resolution.”

The letter in full from the 24 National League captains

An FA Spokesperson responded, saying: “We have updated the standard form Non-League contract following a period of consultation with the relevant stakeholders in the game.

“It has been introduced in order to better reflect current employment legislation, and to help balance the interests of both clubs and players. Under the new contract, it remains the case that clubs and players can agree for the player to receive the full basic wage during the period of any injury.

“We have now also introduced a minimum amount of time during which the player must be paid his full basic wage if they are sick or injured, which is dependent on the step of the National League System in which the club plays.

“This change establishes a new layer of protection for players when compared to the previous version of the contract.”

The PFA – who don’t represent National League players but the vast majority are former members having played in the EFL – offers advice and support to players, who have held numerous talks this week, and has told the FA it cannot support the measures.

James King, the PFA’s general counsel, said of the changes: “It’s really concerning. You would think employment terms and conditions should be improving over time as a society develops. So to see something go backwards is a very unusual step. We had hoped for an improved position in the contract, not worse.

“We feel like there’s a misunderstanding of the position a significant number of these guys are in and the fact this is their livelihood, their mortgages are at stake. They’re their family’s support in a really challenging economic time.

“We hope the FA will listen to the players’ views and think again. Just to hammer the point home we had warned the FA we would have to inform the players of the changes and we didn’t think it would be happily accepted.

“To have their rights diminished in this way has struck a nerve.”

Jamie O’Hara said: “Just read this and it’s a disgrace.

“@PFA need to take action and protect players in the lower leagues, seen too many players get treated like dog sh** at that level.

“You sign a contract you should honour it regardless of injury, it’s professional league full time @TheVanaramaNL.”

Swindon’s Charlie Austin added: “This is a joke surely! Who has come up with the idea sat around a table and thought you know what how does this sound.. all agree yep let’s do it!! Seriously it’s an actual embarrassment! To all the players who play in non league and this document applies to you then I’m sorry!!”

8th tier club Macclesfield, say they will ensure their players take up the option to be paid their normal wage through a period of injury and will honour contracts even if they suffer serious illness or injury.

This is what fans said as National League captains write to the FA calling for talks over ‘shocking’ contract changes…

@theboygosling: Many clubs have already said they will not implement these guidelines, yes it’s a shambolic proposal, but the clubs have the opportunity to dismiss this poor, poor neglect of players welfare

@ion_xd: Happy Non League Day! What a farce! 🙄

@NGFC83: Well played guys

@neilhay3s: They are right to do it. What an awful proposal to treat people so shabbily who give their all for their employers every week.

@spireitesgroup: Class this from the skipper and the rest of the national league captains. Shocking proposal which shouldn’t even be entertained. The NL has caught up with L2 standard wise yet the people running the league are still light years behind. #NonLeagueContracts

@willescott88: Fully behind the players on this. It’s ridiculous to expect them to put their bodies on the line and no my be compensated. They don’t get sick, they get hurt at work and often it’s not their fault. What would happen if they started taking legal action when they get injured?

@Tonyh53T: Good luck with that… !! I personally, as a club official, have never known the FA to listen to anyone once they have made an ill thought out decision. I wish you all the luck with this.

@jjskeffington: This is appalling. What a way to treat footballers

@CountingSheep5: These are young men at a much greater risk of long term absence through injury than most people, who don’t earn the millions you see in the Premier League. They are being screwed over here and I’m pleased to see this show of solidarity between the National League captains.

@LynnSCorbett: Right behind all of the players on this. 👏🏻👏🏻

@SactownMariner: The @TheVanaramaNL are a complete disgrace. Also really cowardly timing from Mark Ives to release this just after going on @POF_POD.

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