When did football go and get so complicated?

It used to be the case that a ball, some jumpers and some mates were all that were required to play the beautiful game. These days, all manner of rules and regulations must be adhered to if time on the naughty step is to be avoided. There are the Financial Fair Play rules, eligibility of players in certain cup competitions, satisfying the home grown player requirements, the implications of the Bosman ruling and all this is before you even consider the difficulty of operating the electronic board that 4th officials so often mess up.

Doing the paperwork on that little lot sounds a more intimidating job than asking Nigel Pearson to judge a local ‘cutest dog’ competition after he’s just returned from a brisk walk in the Carpathian Mountains.


Ted Philipakos’ book provides minute detail on such seemingly complicated legal matters. Structured into two parts: part one deals with landmark cases in the USA and part two with Europe, Philipakos guides the reader through the nuances and ramifications of seismic legal issues arising from the seemingly simple game of football.

There are the obvious big cases like the Bosman ruling but also some lesser-known cases; notably the worrying incidents of head injuries in the MLS. The cases of Bryan Namoff and Eddie Johnson case against his club, are salutary cases for the modern game, especially in a post Jeff Astle, Petr Cech and Hugo Loris era.

A particularly unpleasant chapter gets its hands dirty by delving into the John Terry – Anton Ferdinand case. No detail is left uncovered, no matter how grubby it may be:

“Ferdinand gave the following account of the initial exchanges: “He called me a cunt, and I called him a cunt back. And he gave me a gesture as if to say my breath smelled. I said to him: ‘How can you call me a cunt? You shagged your team- mate’s missus, you’re a cunt.’” Ferdinand’s reference was to an alleged affair between Terry and the ex-girlfriend of Terry’s former England and Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge (which resulted in Terry’s being removed as England captain and replaced by Rio Ferdinand, from February 2010 to March 2011). Ferdinand claimed that he continued on about the affair, and then made the fist-pumping gesture, which was meant to suggest sex.“

No one emerges from this one smelling of roses but Philipakos’ attention to detail is to be applauded. If you catch him sniffing around the bin on your drive one dark evening, be afraid. Be very afraid.

At the same time, the minutiae can occasionally be wearing:

“The Regulatory Commission dismissed the argument, holding that:

[T]he mere fact that a respondent has been acquitted of a criminal charge whose subject-matter is identical, is not capable of acting as a procedural bar preventing the FA from bringing disciplinary proceedings. This is because of the differing standards of proof. In other words, Regulation 6.8 does not entitle a respondent in Mr. Terry’s position to say “I was acquitted, therefore Regulation 6.8 prevents any disciplinary proceedings being brought against me.””

If that style of legalese gets you purring, you’re in for a treat.

At the same time though, ‘On Level Terms’ can be highly enlightening and instructive. If the club close to your heart is making flirtatious eyes at administration, the chapter on this topic is invaluable, acting almost as a handbook to both entering and escaping the clutches of the sanctions imposed by such a state. Once again, football emerges more as Lex Luther than Superman as it seems clear that in such circumstances, the footballer gets paid regardless while St. John’s Ambulance can shake their box as much as they like.

If you seek a rip roaring, page turning, celebration of beauty of the game, this isn’t the book you’re looking for. But this was clearly never Philipakos’ intention. What the book does serve as is a magnificently indispensable guide to the finer details of landmark legal cases surrounding the increasingly complicated nature of the game.

To pick up a copy of On Level Terms – 10 Legal Battles That Tested and Shaped Soccer in the Modern Era by Ted Philipakos go to Amazon HERE