French Soccer Union Launches Legal Action Against Clubs for Mental Pressures on Players

PARIS (AP) — France’s union of professional soccer players plans to take legal action to protect players from the mental pressure exerted by their clubs when they are sidelined until they sign a new contract or agree to leave. The winter transfer window is currently open in Europe, prompting the union to commission a law firm to file a complaint with the Paris public prosecutor for extortion and harassment. The union is aiming to shed light on the bullying tactics that players endure when clubs isolate them in an attempt to force contract extensions or transfers.

In a statement, the union highlighted that these practices, which have affected around 180 players since the start of the current season, are even acknowledged by the clubs themselves. The clubs are increasingly resorting to sophisticated means of communication to complete the isolation of the affected players.

The union argues that such practices are in violation of the Football Charter and employment law, and could potentially be considered a criminal offense. It further points out that the use of moral coercion to induce someone to sign or terminate a contract amounts to extortion.

The union has identified approximately 50 recent cases of “lofting,” a common practice where players are kept on the sidelines in designated training groups to increase pressure on them. However, the union believes that the actual number of victims is much higher.

Earlier this season, Kylian Mbappé, French football’s biggest star, was excluded from a pre-season tour and banned from training with Paris Saint-Germain’s main first-team due to a contract dispute with the club. Although the striker later returned after successful talks, the details of the agreement reached between Mbappé and PSG remain undisclosed. According to reports, the player agreed to forgo financial bonuses should he decide to leave the club.

This is not the first time such tactics have been employed in French football. Adrien Rabiot, prior to joining Juventus, was also sidelined by Paris Saint-Germain for several months when it became evident he would not sign a new contract. Likewise, Hatem Ben Arfa, another former PSG player, won a court appeal against the club for moral harassment, resulting in a compensation payment of 100,000 euros ($108,840).

These repeated instances of clubs mistreating players have prompted the union’s legal action. It aims to challenge the bullying tactics and advocate for the protection of players’ mental well-being.