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The Santa Clause that keeps on giving

Kieran Foran should have stayed with Manly. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
Roar Guru
29th June, 2015
5

When most league fans heard about the so-called ‘Santa Clause’ that was inserted into Kieran Foran’s contract with the Parramatta Eels, we responded with surprise.

‘Nothing like this had ever happened in rugby league before,’ we cried.

However, international sports are not immune to unusual contract clauses and some are downright odd.

While the dollars associated with contracts in Major League Baseball (MLB) dwarf those in the NRL, the clauses that often accompany those hefty contracts are every bit as creative as the Santa Clause.

Back in 1984 the Kansas City Royals were seeking to extend the contract of third-baseman George Brett. At the time the Royals were part-owned by a multi-millionaire by the name of Avron Fogelman, who had made his fortune as a lawyer and property developer in Memphis.

So when the team needed an extra incentive to convince Brett to sign, they offered him a share in one of Fogelman’s property developments, a 1100-apartment complex that Brett’s agent referred to as “a nice little kicker”.

Overnight Brett became a mini property developer, receiving a guaranteed cash flow of US$1 million per annum from the development as well as the right to sell his 10 per cent stake to the Royals for US$2 million.

That clause – an early version of a third-party deal – nowadays seems fairly straightforward. Others are considerably more unique.

Staying in baseball, when the Toronto Blue Jays signed pitcher AJ Burnett in 2005, the contract included a clause that provided a limo to bring Burnett’s family from their home in Monkton, Maryland, to Toronto and back eight times a year.

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Apparently the trip took about eight hours and 700 kilometres each way and therefore the eight round trips totalled approximately 11,200 kilometres – roughly the distance from Sydney to Cape Town.

Providing transport to a player’s family is one thing, providing lessons to a player’s wife on how to be a domestic goddess is quite another. That’s exactly what Congolese midfielder Rolf-Christel Guie-Mien requested when he signed with German football club Eintracht Frankfurt. Apparently the midfielder claimed that he would only sign if it was contractually arranged that his wife would take cooking classes. I’m not sure what his wife thought of that.

Then there are the contract clauses that stipulate what a player can’t do.

After several biting incidents, the Barcelona football club not surprisingly insisted that their contract with Luis Suarez include a clause prohibiting him from biting another player, which is not really unusual given his track record.

Soccer throws up one of the more obscure contract clauses from several years ago. Prior to signing the Swedish star Stefan Schwarz in 1999, Sunderland asked him to describe what he would like to do if his dreams come true. He answered that he would like to have a seat on the first commercial flight to space. Perhaps not surprisingly, the northern club promptly added a clause to his contract prohibiting Schwarz from going into space until the end of his contract.

While Schwarz was excited by the prospect of flying into space, Dutch superstar Dennis Bergkamp preferred to keep his feet firmly planted on earth. Bergkamp’s fear of flying earned him the nickname ‘The Non-Flying Dutchman’ and when he signed with Premier League Club Arsenal he requested that the Gunners include a clause stating that he was not required to travel on trips that needed the team to use aircraft as a means of transport.

To finish off, it’s worth noting that the sporting world is not alone in creating unusual contract clauses.

American rock band Van Halen required concert venues to provide the band with a bowl of M&Ms, but specified that there were strictly to be no brown ones. While this may come across as prima-donna behaviour from a famous band, there was actually a hard-headed reason behind this clause.

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Back in those days Van Halen’s concerts were huge productions that used enormous amounts of lighting and theatricals. This placed a great deal of pressure on venues to meet the band’s exacting standards, and some venues would deliberately cut corners to make their lives that much easier.

So, if the band arrived at the venue to find brown M&Ms in the bowl, it showed that the venue may not have read the contract carefully enough and the band would do an additional check to make sure everything for the show was set up properly.

Ah, hidden clauses slipped into a contract. A Santa Clause anyone?