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The Importance of Written Agreements, Lessons from the Luis Suarez Controversy

Football headlines in recent weeks have been dominated by reports if Luis Suarez, striker for Liverpool and Uruguay will be moving from Anfield this summer, with Arsenal reportedly being a likely destination for the forward. This after Arsenal made a cheeky bid of £40M and 1 pound to trigger the supposed £40M release clause in his contract.

Despite Liverpool insisting the player is not for sale, Suarez himself has claimed that the club promised him that he would be able to leave if they failed to qualify for the Champions League. This has been categorically denied by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

As the controversy surrounding the transfer saga continues, it is important to take a few employment law lessons from this episode.

First as in all matters, putting stuff down in writing helps. This is especially true for employers and their agreements with employees, but also for employees in their claims against their managers and supervisors. As I frequently remind my clients, if you want to have a viable claim under Title VII, put the complaint down in writing and send it to the employer’s Human Resources Department. Absent that, the employer is simply going to deny that you ever made a complaint concerning workplace conduct or behavior. This is also the case, when you are requesting a pay raise or for that matter was assured a pay raise, or any other promise by an employer.

In the case of the Suaraz sale, Luis could well have saved himself the uncertainty surrounding his transfer, if only he had placed his condition for release in writing. Having failed to do that, the controversy is now being litigated in the national newspapers.

The second advantage in putting claims down in writing, is that it get rids of uncertainties. Verbal agreements are evidentially difficult to prove. That is why general guidance states that there should still be some form of written evidence regarding a verbal agreement with both parties usually signing a document to evidence their agreement.

Otherwise, as evidenced by the controversy surrounding the Suarez saga, it can be tough to prove, exactly what each party has said and ultimately agreed to.

From a personal perspective however, as Suarez was the penultimate top scorer in the English league last year, scoring 29 goals in all competitions, it would be silly of Liverpool to sell him to a rival club, especially when in this case, both Arsenal and Liverpool are challenging for the coveted top 4 spot guaranteeing European football. Considering the league campaign is a mere 3 days away, with Liverpool kicking off the competition against Stoke City, we are hopeful that this drama can be resolved soon, in favour of the club. If so, we will be back cheering for Luis Suarez as he bags in more goals for the mighty reds! YNWA. 

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