Player Retention in Soccer: Legal Framework in Spain

12th February 2020
Nowadays, the soccer world is changing faster than ever before. Because of it, more and more contracts regulate player retention. Want to know the legal framework? Today, we'll examine the situation in Spain.

Did you know that most soccer contracts have a player retention clause? This means a player can’t accept a rival’s offer whenever they please. In today’s article, we examine the legal framework of this issue.

The contracts of soccer players try to shield them from possible temptations and any offers from other clubs. Player retention in soccer is becoming more and more commonplace. More so, the terms of retention are legally regulated.

Player retention in soccer

The right of retention of soccer players in Spain was a problem for many players and clubs until 1985. At that time, this protocol was applied to professional players. With the arrival of the famous termination clause, things changed, although juveniles remain subject to withholding.

In the specific case of young soccer players, there’s a legal article of the RFEF collecting all the Spanish laws applied to this particular group. The juvenile retention right appears in Chapter II on the license of the players. Punctually, article 122 establishes everything related to the classification of soccer players’ licenses.

What is the right of retention for youth soccer players?

Of course, teams have a temporary right over the affiliation of their youth players. In Spain, this type of link is called ‘F’ and applies to players 17 years of age. If a player in training reaches this age, from January 1 of each season they can enter this classification.

Only clubs that have teams in the first category can include a player retention clause in their contracts. In this way, the contract usually ties young players for three consecutive seasons. This happens especially when the club uses these young players in their First Division team.

In some cases, player retention in soccer can be detrimental to the career progression and training of young players. Either way, both the representatives and parents of these types of athletes must analyze the contracts well, and that’s what FIFA’s rules prescribe.

Player retention among younger players

The problem with the right of retention of young players goes beyond the mandatory two years of retention. According to article 134, at the age of 19, the athlete, “Will remain part of the club as an amateur for the next two seasons.” This means that the rights over younger players can continue until they’re 21 years old.

This could be positive for the young player. Nevertheless, problems arise when the players aren’t assigned any playing time. Of course, there are also other cases where players who already passed their two mandatory years want to move to other clubs. For athletes in training, being trapped in the role of “amateur” can represent important career delays!

Player retention in soccer is important so as not to lose the stars of youth soccer.

Of course, in certain circumstances, there are ways to regulate this retention. Besides, there are certain exceptions in some cases.

The fact is that retention is different according to the federation license of each player. This means that everyone involved in the signing of the contract should carefully read the final document. This also includes reading the corresponding collective agreements.

Types of player retention licenses in soccer

  • Type C: the Type C cadet license is shorter than others. Players finish their commitment to the team at the end of each season. If they remain in the club for the last year of this category, they automatically move to the type J license. In this case, the player can vouch for an agreement that would release them from this commitment. In order to claim their right of retention, the club must have a team in the youth league.
  • Type J: players with J-youth licenses are perhaps the most affected by player retention clauses. These players must meet the minimum retention. On the other hand, if they reach the type A license, they must spend two more seasons, up to 21 years. In this case, potentially the player may refuse to sign as an amateur.
  • Type A: those who acquire the type A license has no way of undoing their commitment. This is just as with type J licenses. In practice, everything will depend on whether the club wants to release the player. This release can be either before or by the initial agreement noted in the contract.
A coach worth his salt will end up being almost like a father to athletes.

Exceptions to the right of retention for soccer players

We already mentioned that to enforce player retention, the club has to ensure the player plays in a high-level tournament. For example, if a person has a J license, his team can only do the withholding if they take part in the professional league.

Thus, if the club discharges the player they can’t apply the retention clause. In addition, when a team doesn’t file for renewal before August of each season, they lose their retention right.

On the other hand, if the player signs a professional contract, it eliminates the player retention clause from the initial contract. Likewise, it’s possible for the juvenile’s parents to negotiate a different length of retention. Because of this, it’s important to analyze the contracts before signing.

In short, retentions are the way teams have to protect their talents. In a market that’s very competitive, this is a must. It’s a useful tool, provided clubs use it responsibly and without prejudice to any of the parties.

  • FIFA. Reglamento sobre Estatuto y transferencia de jugadores. Extraído de:
  • RFEF. Reglamento General. Extraído de: