Spartans explain reasons behind victory in appeal on Comvalius case

Hamrun Spartans explained the reasons behind the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to uphold the appeal filed by the club against the decision by the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber which had ordered the Spartans to pay over €155,000 as training compensation to three Dutch clubs in relation with Sylvano Comvalius. Details were given during a press conference at the club premises in Hamrun.

MFA Head of Legal Department Dr Chris Bonnett explained that on April 7th 2011, the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber had ordered Hamrun Spartans to pay Amsterdam FC, Almere City FC (formerly FC Omniworld) and Club Quick Boys a total of €155,000 (€29,166, €117,500 and €8,333 respectively) plus interest at a rate of 5% per annum as from 2nd February 2009.

Dr Bonnett said the association felt that something was not right in this decision and besides that, the amount was not proportional to the money spent on training. After discussing the matter with Dr Volker Hesse – an expert in such matters, it was felt that there were grounds for an appeal.

The Royal Netherlands Soccer Federation (KNVB) produced three different versions of the ‘player’s passport’ – one claiming that Comvalius had joined Amsterdam FC on May 1st 2003, another that he joined them on August 1st 2002 and a third one claiming that he joined the club on June 1st 2002. The three also had different versions on when he joined FC Omniworld and Club Quick Boys.

Dr Bonnett said Sylvano Comvalius played a very important role in the issue as although he had no particular interest in the case, he gave important evidence, stating that he had actually signed a contract with Quick Boys.

The player, in fact, confirmed that he was on the books of Amsterdam FC between summer 2002 and May 2004 but sustained a serious injury in September 2003 and no longer played for them. Between 2004/05 and 2007/08, he was registered with FC Omniworld. For long periods of time, he was unable to play or train for various health reasons, leaving the club in January 2008.

Comvalius stated that in season 2008/09, he signed a contract with Club Quick Boys, effective from August 1st 2008, which included a salary, match bonuses as well as compensation for travel expenses. The contract was terminated by mutual agreement in mid-November 2008. He joined Hamrun Spartans on January 2nd 2009 as a full-time non-amateur player.

Dr Bonnett explained that Quick Boys admitted that the player had signed a contract with them – an employment contract, even though it was not deposited at the KNVB, and therefore the contract with Hamrun Spartans was not the player’s first professional contract. For this reason, Hamrun did not owe Amsterdam FC or FC Almere any training compensation.

He went on to explain that the CAS stressed that there are only two categories of players – amateurs or professionals. Tf there is a contract including salary/allowance which are more than any expenses incurred by the player, then for FIFA, this is defined as a professional contract. The CAS stressed that there is no space for a hybrid category, apart from amateur and professional.

Since Quick Boys had terminated the contract of Sylvano Comvalius by mutual consent, then they did not have any rights for compensation.

The CAS therefore upheld the appeals filed by Hamrun Spartans against the decisions of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber and the decisions by the FIFA DRC were set aside.

Dr Chris Bonnett said the association was extremely happy with this decision as the perseverance shown paid off. He said that although there was nothing wrong in signing foreign players as they enrich our leagues, clubs had to be very careful about possible pitfalls if one does not make good research which would easily put a club on the brink of bankruptcy.

Dr Bonnett said clubs should focus on having sound administration as this was of utmost importance and said the ruled regarding Financial Fair Play would help clubs do so.

He concluded by thanking Victor Cassar and Paul Borg, Dr Volker Hesse who represented the MFA in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Sylvano Comvalius whose evidence was crucial.

Hamrun Spartans Vice-President Victor Cassar said the case had put the club in a bad light, scaring sponsors and having to put a provision of €180,000 in the club’s accounts in order to cover the amount which was due according to the FIFA DRC decisions. He thanked the Malta Football Association for the professional backing they were given by the new administration.

Victor Cassar thanked MFA President Norman Darmanin Demajo, Chief Executive Officer Bjorn Vassallo, Honorary Treasurer Antoine Portelli and Head of Legal Department Dr Chris Bonett, Paul Borg, Joe Borg, Daniel Sullivan and Sean Scicluna.

Hamrun Spartans president Daniel Sullivan said the club could now focus on strengthening the squad and improving the club’s image.

Sullivan revealed that the squad will be going for a ten-day training camp in Bansko, Bulgaria. Following the confirmation of Stefan Sultana as coach, Atanas Marinov has been appointed as Technical Director.

The club will be signing five Bulgarian players as foreigners. Roderick Fenech signed a new contract while Massimo Grima and Terence Scerri joined the Spartans on loan from Valletta.

Hamrun Spartans will be hosting a triangular tournament with Naxxar Lions and Zejtun Corinthians on August 6th while they will meet Birkirkara in the Tivoli Cup four days later.