Football team Mainz 05 has won an important victory on temporary player contracts. The Federal Labor Court ruled for the first time that time limits are effective for players in team sports, specifically in Bundesliga soccer. The case revolved around the general admissability of fixed-term employment contracts in professional sports. The Bundesliga soccer team was sued by Heinz Müller, a former goalkeeper, over removal of the time limit of his employment contract and for lost bonus payments. The legal dispute mainly dealt with the issue as to whether and to what extent employment contracts in professional sports may be time-limited and to what extent a claim to be selected for the team and/or the resulting opportunities for bonus payments exists. After Mainz Labor Court had decided that the team had unlawfully limited Müller's contract, Rhineland-Palatinate State Labor Court considered the fixed term to be effective. The Federal Labor Court now confirmed the effectiveness of the time limitation and follows the grounds presented by the State Labor Court that the fixed term is justified by the nature of the work performance in professional sports.
The case is of paramount importance overall because it concerns the general admissibility of fixed-term employment contracts in professional sports, such as in Bundesliga soccer, handball, basketball, or ice hockey. Employment lawyer Dr Johan-Michel Menke, partner at the Hamburg office of the law firm of Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek, successfully advised Mainz 05 on the appeal and the legal review by the court. 'If teams were unable to conclude fixed-term player contracts, they would be faced with insoluble problems. Dismissals are hardly possible under employment law and are additionally prohibited under the rules of the federation. In this respect, today’s ruling creates legal certainty for the entire sport – 1. FSV Mainz 05 e. V. and Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek wrote legal history,' Dr Menke said.