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Is Manchester City breaching employment law by not playing Yaya Toure?

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The player's representatives are contemplating legal action against the club for the Ivorian midfielder's lack of playing time. What is the legal recourse for the ostracised superstar?

While a large portion of footballers are content with sitting on the bench and collecting an astronomical wage, it seems Yaya Toure and his representation are not quite as agreeable.

Teammates such as Samir Nasri have been known to sit out matches with aplomb, collecting wages worth up to £120,000 a week without much incident before being shipped out on loan to Sevilla earlier this year. 

Toure is one of the highest earning players in the world, earning an eye watering £220,000 a week. A few weeks ago, his agent Dimitri Seluk became involved in a public spat with City manager Pep Guardiola, suggesting that Pep was treating his charge unfairly. Seluk accused the Spaniard of treating his players ‘like dogs’.

The comments made by the agent have left Toure in no man’s land, as Guardiola is adamant that the Ivorian midfielder will not play for the club until he apologises for the comments.

Seluk has now indicated that he will begin legal proceedings against the club, citing that the club are in breach of FIFA regulations.  Seluk said: “What Guardiola is doing is illegal. He thinks he can act like this because Yaya is in the last year of his contract and FIFA’s regulations say we can only appeal about this decision at the end of the season.”

FIFA regulations state that a player can walk away from their contract if he is not selected to play in 10% of his team’s games when he is free from injury or suspension. It would appear that City may be in breach of this stipulation, but are they breaching UK employment law? 

Enrique Garcia, a consultant specialising in employment law at ELAS said: “If Yaya Toure feels he is being targeted, bullied or side-lined then he may well have a claim for constructive dismissal, as would any other employee. 

“However, it is important to note that footballers have no guarantee of playing time so Manchester City can argue that they are not breaching his contract by not playing him. The club has also kept the door open by saying if Seluk apologises then Toure can play."

Employment tribunals are rare in football, as the lack of stipulated hours often make it difficult for players to prove that they have been marginalised. The amount of money that can be reclaimed from a tribunal pale in comparison to Toure’s wage.

Garcia commented: “This would certainly be an interesting case and one that would turn on the evidence a judge hears and how they interpret the evidence. In any event, compensation for losses at employment tribunal is capped to £78,692 – less than a week’s wage for Toure so there would be little practical benefit in enforcing his employment law rights from a constructive dismissal point of view.”

Tom Ritchie

By Tom Ritchie

Tom is an editorial assistant at Changeboard.

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