From 1st July 2023, significant changes are being made to Non-League contracts.
The introduction of new Non-League contracts will affect the rights and salaries of players who are ill or injured, and the ability of clubs to terminate contracts if a player suffers a long-term injury.
The PFA was asked by the FA to provide feedback on these changes.
We worked constructively with the FA on this but, ultimately, informed them that the PFA cannot support the introduction of the new contract as we believe it is inferior to the current Non-League player contract.
We understand that the new conditions will apply to all new contracts, or renewed contracts (including extensions, variations or amendments to a current contract), signed on or after 1st July 2023.
What do players need to be aware of?
Under the current contract:
- If a player suffers an injury, they continue to be paid their full wages for the duration of their contract.
- A player’s contract can be terminated by their club, with notice, if they suffer permanent incapacity (as established by an independent medical examination).
Under the new contract:
'Club sick pay'
If a player suffers a playing injury, they will only receive their full wages for 12 weeks (if a National League National Division player) or 6 weeks (if playing below the National League National Division).
If the player is still ill or injured after this initial period on full wages, the club can reduce their wages to Statutory Sick Pay until they are fit again. Statutory Sick Pay is currently £99.35 per week and is payable for up to 28 weeks. These new terms will be referred to in the new contract as ‘Club Sick Pay’.
This will automatically apply unless the club agrees that the player should receive their full wages for the full period.
To obtain the club’s agreement, the player must actively ‘opt in’ by ticking a check-box on the front page of the new standard contract.
In addition, under the terms of the new contract, a player’s contract can be terminated (with 3 months’ notice) if, in the opinion of a club-instructed medic, the player is unable through injury or illness to play for a period of four months.
The significant change here is that a player no longer needs to be permanently incapacitated to have their contract terminated – now it only requires a ‘long term’ injury. Also, it is a club instructed medic rather than an independent medic that makes the evaluation.
Understanding these changes
The PFA does not have an agreement in place with the FA or the League to represent National League players as their recognised trade union. However, our figures show that almost 80% of National League players are former PFA members, having at one point been professionals or professional scholars with EFL or Premier League clubs.
Unfortunately, we believe that the new Non-League contract represents a reduction in player rights and so it is important that players understand these changes and what they might mean for their rights from next season.