The Malta Football Player Association (MFPA) made its ‘first international appearance’ at the FIFPro Eastern European Conference organized in Thessaloniki, Greece between the 8th and 9th July 2011.
In attendance where the highest FIFPro officials, established unions such as those in Russia, Slovenia, Israel and of course Greece, together with a number of newly established unions who have recently applied for membership with FIFPro, namely Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Malta. The MFPA was represented by Konrad Sultana and Dr Anthony Galea.
The conference organized by the World Football Player Union was intended to welcome the new applicants mainly hailing from East Europe and discuss with them the problems being faced by football players in their countries. The MFPA was given a special authorization to participate, notwithstanding our geographic position, in order to introduce the association as soon as possible to the FIFPro, and indeed it has been a warm welcome.
The MFPA was granted time upon the start of the conference to introduce the association by means a presentation delivered by its representatives. After a short introduction on Malta, the Malta Football Association (MFA) and the situation of Maltese football, the MFPA introduced its statute and objectives, and general conditions of employment of Maltese players.
A number of participants and FIFPro were surprised to listen that in Malta the transfer system still existed and players were still ‘property’ of clubs after their contracts were terminated since Malta is part of the EU, and the MFA an established member of FIFA and UEFA, and over 10 years have passed since the Bosman ruling! Also the very low salary caps to which the Maltese players are subjected was the cause of comments and concern since the limits do not respect the current salaries being paid to Maltese players.
FIFPro were very supportive of the MFPA after it was alerted to remarks reported in the past few days that the Maltese clubs were not even willing to recognize the MFPA as a body representative of players notwithstanding over more than 100 players have to date signed up, though a decision by the MFA was not yet taken. FIFA had initiated a social dialogue with Players’ representatives since the Bosman ruling and it was unconceivable that such cannot take place in Malta. The MFA claims in its Statute to organize Maltese football, and support all its different protagonists including clubs, coaches, referees and players – it is therefore bound to recognize the legitimate representative of the players. Indeed FIFPro promised to support the MFPA in its request for recognition to the MFA and this during the period of scrutiny of the application filed by the MFPA to FIFPro. FIFPro also remarked that once the MFPA obtains membership status, on the basis of the memorandum of understanding it has with FIFA, any member of FIFPro would automatically be recognized by FIFA and hence the local football association.
The conference then moved on to focus on the problems players are facing in EU countries to have contracts respected, in particular the rights to be paid, paid on time, and be judged by an impartial tribunal (not solely composed by club representatives). The right to training was also discussed. Respect for these basic rights is crucial for players to be able to focus on their jobs and be in a position to perform over the weekend matches.
Of concern was the fact that racism and violence was still rife in East Europe and a few players recounted in person problems encountered of recent in stadia where supporters were allowed to enter the field and challenge them. The focus was however the problem of match fixing. A couple of high profile players also recounted their experiences, while the story of a player who was charged with match fixing unduly was used as an example. Notwithstanding it was declared that he was not involved in match fixing by the football and government authorities the ordeal which lasted two years actually means the death knell to his career.
FIFPro has appointed a task force to draw a report and provide concrete solutions for all the above matters, which report will be presented to the highest bodies in international football. Particularly in the case of match fixing it will be stressed that the player be considered a ‘Victim’ of criminals approaching such players who usually are in a position of difficulty, whether financial or personal, and are vulnerable and therefore an easy target to convince. Indeed such criminals also resort to physical violence and family threats to aid to drive home their message.