It was in the news today that the contract of Papy Djilobodji was terminated by Sunderland FC after the player was absent from the club for one month without authorization, and thereafter failed a fitness test.
In our opinion, Sunderland FC have a just cause for the unilateral termination because:
1. By the jurisprudence of FIFA’s DRC, one month unauthorized absence has been deemed long enough as a just cause for the unilateral termination of a player’s contract.
2. It is also to be considered that there were official matches which the club was involved in during that period of absence of the player. This makes it more grievous.
3. The club also wrote warning letters to the player before the eventual termination; in line with the requirement of the DRC.
On the other side, we believe the player could argue that the fact that he eventually resumed after the one month absence, and the club conducted a fitness test for him, amounted to a waiver of the right to unilateral termination.
It could be argued that it was after, and because he failed the fitness test that the club decided to unilaterally terminate his contract; whereas, failure of a fitness test is not a just cause for termination.
It could be further argued that at the point he failed the fitness test, the club could have heavily fined him and put him on a different training regime; rather than going back to the option of terminating his contract.
It will be interesting to see what the DRC decides if either of the parties files a claim.