National League captains call on FA to resolve ‘unacceptable' contract changes
National League captains have written to the Football Association to ask for urgent talks over controversial contract changes.
Players are worried and angry over the planned amendments to non-league deals by the FA due to come into force in July.
If players are ill or injured for longer than four months, clubs will be able to reduce their wages to statutory sick pay – just £99.35 a week and payable for 28 weeks – until they are fit.
For those playing below the fifth tier they will only get their full wage for six weeks.
The FA received the letter, addressed to chief executive Mark Bullingham and signed by all 24 captains, earlier on Friday. It has also been sent to National League general manager Mark Ives.
The letter reads: “We are seeking urgent talks with the FA and the National League to clarify the situation and provide an acceptable resolution.
“The apparent decision to allow clubs to easily dispose of players who pick up injuries or suffer illness is unacceptable.
“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.”
Yeovil skipper Josh Staunton has been part of the group who have been discussing their position since players received the news on Monday, with every option on the table.
He told the PA news agency: “We’re looking for the FA to listen to us and give us the time of day to meet, discuss and find a resolution.
“We’d like to work together. We feel like we’ve been left out, had zero representation in the process and a decision has been made on our behalf.
“It doesn’t take into account how we live as footballers at this level. We try to live our lives professionally, but the contract doesn’t reflect that.
“We don’t have the level of care Premier League players have, it puts a lot of strain on players mentally. There’s going to be a serious problems, mentally, for players and they will be questioning if the risk is worth it.
“We are hoping to deal with this in the most professional manner we can, without any mess on the outside. Ultimately this is people’s livelihoods, teachers have unions and strike, the railways go on strike, we hope it doesn’t come to that but we have to protect what we believe is right.
“As a group of people, not just footballers, we have to stand up.”
The Professional Footballers’ Association is helping the players but does not represent those in the non-league, leaving its hands tied over any official action.
An FA spokesperson said: “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.”