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WEF Exclusive: Shenhua could face FIFA punishment over Yu Tao dual contract

The fallout over the sensational transfer of Shenhua club legend Yu Tao to rivals Shanghai Shenxin has continued with club owner Zhu Jun threatening the midfielder with legal action over his move.

Zhu was quoted by the Liberation Daily as saying that, although Yu Tao had a contract signed between himself and Shenhua and lodged with the Chinese FA, there was also a separate supplementary contract between the two parties, which gives Shenhua the right to extend Yu Tao’s contract for an unspecified number of years. Zhu has also admitted he was “furious” about the move which appears to have taken everyone at the club completely by surprise.

Shanghai Shenxin say Yu Tao was out of contract and the CFA have already approved the transfer. However, as of today, Shenhua have sent a representative to Beijing to check the wording of the contract registered with the authorities. Zhu Jun insists that the “supplementary contract” signed between Yu Tao and Shenhua stipulates Shenhua have an option on Yu Tao.

However, according to FIFA statues, the signing of dual contracts is forbidden.

In a FIFA circular sent in 2008, which outlined a minimum standard for transfers between clubs anywhere in the world, “no further contract should cover the legal relationship between the two parties.”

The employment contract must contained all rights and duties between the signatory parties (employer and employee). No further contract should cover the legal relationship between the two parties. If another agreement exists or is signed at a later stage then the parties are obliged to refer to this agreement or to any subsequent employment agreement. Any additional agreement related to the labour contract must be sent to the professional league and/or the Member association….”

Other clubs have run afoul of these regulations recently. Former Scottish Premier League side, Rangers FC, were dissolved during the summer as a result of a still-ongoing investigation into a wide range of wrong-doings, including the signing of dual contracts. However, FIFA did not get directly involved in the case after the club reluctantly admitted guilt and reformed, joining Scotland’s bottom division.

However, according to the Oriental Morning Post, such agreements, known as “yin and yang” contacts, are commonplace in the Chinese Super League:

“For a long time, in order to avoid any CFA rules which may impact their salaries, or other issues, all CSL teams sign two contracts with their players. One document is put on file with the CFA, this is known as the “yin” contract, the other is kept between the club and the player and is known as the “yang” contract. What should be noted is that, in the contract Shenhua lodged with the CFA, Yu Tao’s contract expires on December 31, and there is no extension clause.” But our reporter understands that, in the contract signed between the club and Yu Tao, Shenhua have the option to extend Yu’s contract.”

As things stand, Yu Tao is that he was out of contract with Shenhua, and has signed a contract with Shanghai Shenxin which has been approved by the CFA, leaving Shenhua with no recourse to compensation.

The Oriental Morning Post quoted a friend of Yu Tao as saying “Yu Tao had no contract, Shenxin offered him one, so from this perspective, he shouldn’t look back.” However, a furious Zhu Jun has simply labelled Yu Tao a ‘defector”  and vowed to sue.

Yu Tao himself hasn’t commented on the legality of the matter yet, but said on his weibo yesterday:

At the end of afternoon training I had to finally face up to it. Thanks to all friends I haven’t contacted yet, thanks every fan who has supported and tolerated me over the last ten or more years. To strangers, I had to part with something of my own, right now my mood is very down, please give me some time to get over this, then I will face up to everyone to this very important decision I made for myself. Please understand, ok?

Shenhua’s support has rounded on Yu Tao accusing him of abandoning the club at a critical moment. Indeed, your correspondent received several personal messages on the matter from angry fans.

“In such a difficult time, he chose to leave the club for a local rival, behind everyone’s back, that rubbed salt into the wound, its unforgivable and outrageous, it show’s he’s a coward inside,” said one.

The fans’ outrage is certainly understandable. But the bigger issue is do CSL contracts between players and clubs abide by the rules and regulations of FIFA? As with all legal matters, the answer to this may rest on how laws are interpreted. The rules do seem to be very clear, yet the club is not denying two contracts exist, with the media saying such things are commonplace in Chinese football.

It will be very interesting indeed to see if FIFA do get involved in this situation. The governing body has always treated China with kid gloves when it comes to admonishing the CFA for its indiscretions and corruption scandals, not to mention the very obvious government interference in the running of football in China which is expressly against FIFA regulations.

In this context, Shenhua appear to be about to run into a brick wall as regards efforts to get any compensation in this transfer.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.



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