The Labour Court Mainz is currently creating quite a stir in
German professional sports. For decades, it was customary and
recognized by the courts that contracts of professional athletes
could be limited. The Labor Court in Mainz now sees this
German goalkeeper Heinz Müller brought an action against
his club Mainz 05. He had been under a fixed-term contract with the
club since 2009, most recently between 2012 and summer 2014. The
club Mainz 05 was of the opinion that because of uncertain progress
in performance of the player (Müller, in 2012, was already 34
years old), and because of it being customary practice in the
industry, a fixed-term contract was permissible. However, the
Labour Court Mainz instead agreed with Müller's complaint,
and explained that with regard to the last contract of employment,
there were no substantive exculpatory reasons. The central
assertion of the Labour Court is that even in professional sports,
the mere uncertainty of future performance does not justify a
The club Mainz 05 has announced plans to appeal. The case
carries explosive force and is expected to be decided before the
Federal Labour Court or the European Court of Justice. This can
take time, and there is uncertainty whether countless professional
sports contracts contain invalid fixed-term clauses.
The decision can hit the clubs hard. That the uncertain progress
in performance of professional athletes should not justify a term
limitation is difficult to accept. Careers of professional football
players regularly end no later than in the athlete’s late
30s. This must be taken into account. Either the legislature must
intervene, or collective bargaining agreements in professional
sports must regulate practice-oriented term limitations in the
future. First, however, the opinion of the Labour Court Mainz must
contend with the judicial instances. Thus, the game is not over by
a long shot. We will keep you posted.
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