The potential exploitation of non-English-speaking players in UK professional football contracts

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The article asks whether English professional football clubs have the potential to exploit non-English speaking players during contract negotiations and signing meetings. We draw on evidence we gathered from a series of semi-structured interviews with football agents, former migrant players, and player liaison/welfare officers who currently work or have previously worked in English professional leagues. We also draw on normative insights from legal, moral, and applied ethical thought to develop a new, bespoke account of what should shock the conscience of the court. We argue that because of language barriers, non-English speaking players could end up signing unconscionable contracts, if not based on procedural or substantive unfairness, then potentially based on violations of their autonomy through deceptiveness. We also show that the current practice of players’ agents acting as ad hoc translators/interpreters raises serious ethical issues, not least lack of competency and impartiality. Following on from all this, we make a number of practical recommendations about how players’ representatives and clubs should conduct themselves, and what responsibilities they have to provide language support to non-English speaking players in contract negotiations and signing meetings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205–221
Number of pages17
JournalThe International Sports Law Journal
Issue number3-4
Early online date15 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • applied ethics
  • English language proficiency
  • professional football
  • translation and interpreting
  • unconscionable contracts

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