This past week, I had a client that went through a horrible situation with a team in Serbia. It was not just one situation, but a series of unfortunate events from the time she stepped off the plane in September. In the end, there was a mutual agreement that my client would leave the team. The team then, however, took advantage of the fact that my client did not have an agent anymore and they keep wages (which were already over 2 weeks late at the time) and refused to even pay for a flight home, although it was clearly stated in the contract! Unfortunately, situations like this happen very often in Europe. This not only happens with teams such as in my client’s case with a small budget team. It also happens with bigger teams where one would think they have enough money to do the right thing.
I was at every step of my client’s ordeal to advise her of the next steps, but at some point, I needed to ask for help because this story had reached an impasse, and I wanted to make sure what I advised her was correct. Thankfully, an agent with high-level European experience heeded my call for help and together we were able to provide quality advice for my client.
If you saw my Instagram story posts in the last few days, you already know that the situation is resolved. She ended up forfeiting the money owed (not a LOT, but she should have gotten it) and she ended up paying for her flight. After some strange negotiations in which the team tried to add a buyout clause for her next team, she finally got her Letter of Termination (which is important whenever you leave a team) and will be returning home to America at the end of the week. My client remained professional throughout the whole ordeal and I am very proud of her. This was such a toxic situation that I feared for my client’s safety. This was the best we could do in this situation.
That leads me to what I wanted to write in this blog post. It came to light during my discussions with the agent that my client’s former agent who drew up the contract made a huge mistake (amongst many others). Her former agent did not put a clause in concerning the BAT. The BAT stands for Basketball Arbitration Tribunal. Think of them as the FIBA court which oversees basketball disputes for every FIBA-affiliated country.
The BAT resolves contractual disputes between players, agents, coaches, and also clubs via arbitration. There are two things to consider before taking a club, or agent to the BAT however-money and time. Opening a dispute is neither cheap nor quick. The administrative fees could be between 1,500€ and 7,000€ just to file. Depending on how complex the dispute is, the fees for the arbitrator can be between 4,000€ and 12,000. That being said, the costs for a lawsuit in most European countries can often exceed 50,000€. If you win the case, you will receive a portion of these costs back since the losing side must pay for both parties, but you must pay first.
Another thing to think about is time. It may take up to 9 months to receive a BAT arbitration award, but again, compared to a normal civil court lawsuit, sometimes it can be dragged out over years.
Teams bet that even if the clause is in the contract, most players will not open a claim. I can assure you though, if your case is clear-cut, they will usually fold and reach a settlement. Especially if you have an agent willing to go through it with you.
In the case of my client, the amount of money potentially owed would have been around 1,000€ which is hardly enough to open a case, but the main problem was that there was no clause in her contract stating that any disputes COULD be brought before the BAT. Without such a clause, the BAT will not even consider a case.
I took the liberty to look for the exact wording on the FIBA website that should be included in each contract you sign within European markets…even when signing with an agent. The link is also listed below.
“Any dispute arising from or related to the present contract shall be submitted to the Basketball Arbitral Tribunal (BAT) in Geneva, Switzerland, and shall be resolved in accordance with the BAT Arbitration Rules by a single arbitrator appointed by the BAT President. The seat of the arbitration shall be Geneva, Switzerland. The arbitration shall be governed by Chapter 12 of the Swiss Act on Private International Law, irrespective of the parties’ domicile. The language of the arbitration shall be English. The arbitrator shall decide the dispute ex aequo et bono.” (BAT Arbitration Rules, point 0.3)
An important point to look at in all contracts is WHICH country will legal disputes be settled in. Sometimes it will state in the country where the team is located. In that case, the BAT is not an option. In order for the BAT to be valid, it must be stated as above.
Click the link below to read more about the process if you have a grievance and the BAT clause IS included in your contract. There is also an email address to who to write if you have questions.
Now, all of this being said, I know the majority of you reading this post are not making big-time money (like my client) and cannot put up the kind of money needed to open a case with the BAT. I would estimate for 80% of players overseas, it is probably not worth the time, energy or money to open such a case.
There are other options, especially if you are playing in an “employee friendly” country such as France or Germany for example. In such a case, it may be better to solve the legal dispute in such a country by hiring a lawyer which specializes in workers rights.
The best piece of advice I can give, is something that a wise agent once told me, “The player has to make his or herself indispensable to the team in every way.” If the team feels that they NEED you, it makes the job of your agent (if you have one) much easier!
I hope this post will help many of you ballers. Because of the importance of this post, I would like to ask you to share it with those in need of this knowledge. It could save someone a lot of stress!