Overwhelming majority vote in favour of Player Status Reform

An overwhelming majority voted in favour of the player status reform – Section IV of the Statute of the Malta Football Association: Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players – during an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Malta Football Association which was held on Wednesday.

The main points were the reduction in the parameters for players whose contract expired, a new concept of training compensation and a change in the amount of foreign players in the Premier league with the introduction of a minimum eleven home-grown players in the match-day squad.

Addressing a press conference after the Extraordinary General Meeting, MFA General Secretary Bjorn Vassallo said that this reform was only possible as the association showed courage and motivation to change long-standing rules and regulations and thanked member clubs for joining the association in this reform.

Vassallo said he was really satisfied with the result, considering how hostile clubs were to these changes a few years ago and praised them for the fact that they were now sharing this administration’s vision, knowing that these changes were necessary for the good of the game, at least in the long-term.

The MFA General Secretary said this reform was another major challenge following financial fair play and social dialogue. He said that the association made it clear that for financial fair play, football governance had to change. Clubs understood this message and embraced this idea.

Vassallo said that social dialogue was next and the association managed to bring all stakeholders together. He said that the Malta Football Players Association was now accepted within the football family.

Bjorn Vassallo went on to say that what the association was doing was due to the respect to its values. He concluded by saying that the Malta Football Association was a catalyst for change – tackling all the problems and challenges to set the basis for the future of the game.

MFA Vice-President Dr Chris Bonnett described the approval of Player Status Reform as a defining moment in this presidency of the association.

“Everyone thought we were crazy for having the guts to challenge the status quo of this rule book. We were agressive and wanted to create a discussion in order to take football the way forward. We can no longer consider the game as just a hobby … it is now an industry,” said Dr Bonnett.

Dr Bonnett said that back in 2010, several clubs had nothing – now most of them have their own facilities thanks to an ambitious infrastructural project. He said that the next step was the Financial Fair Play and with the support of the government, the association created a package thanks to which it could control club expenditure, not to allow them to end up in dire financial situations.

The MFA Vice-President said that this reform was the third step as the association wants to make clubs self-sustainable so that they no longer need sugar daddy.

Dr Chris Bonnett went on the explain the main points of the Player Status Reform.

1. Minimum requirements for contracts of professional players: right of leave; right of fair hearing when disciplined by club; players’s contracts cannot be terminated while injured; the removal of salary capping; the reduction of the age of signing a contract of professional from 18 to 16; the possibility of the inclusion in a contract of pre-liquidated damages clauses (for doping and match fixing for example).

Players now can write to the MFA after ten days if they have not been paid for one month and the club would be sanctioned; after three months, players could obtain automatic free release.

The set-up of player status committee in a social dialogue environment

2. The Retained List is now The Amateur Players’ List: reduced the amount of players which could be retained in every age group, others could leave without compensation. Declaration to be submitted in April.

New concept of registration: after signing at the age of 14, the player will no longer be bound to the club until the age of 21. When the player is no longer eligible for youths, he could leave for payment of nursery compensation or parameters depending on the higher amount – this opens more the chance of a player moving as the main objective of the association is to see more players enjoy playing football.

3. New concept of training compensation: When signing the first professional contract, the club is obliged to pay the nurseries (for whom the player had played from age 12 onwards) the training compensation (which is in principle similar to the FIFA training compensation system).

4. Transfer windows now apply for amateurs as well. Amateur players will no longer be free to change clubs between September and December but will have to stick to the Summer transfer market or the January transfer window.

5. Reduction in the parameters as from June 9th by 50% and by a further 25% in June 2016. As from next June, the limit on the parameters for the transfers of players will be no more than €30,000.

6. Complaints Board based on social dialogue composition with a chairman, three members representing clubs and three members representing players.

7. A minimum of eleven home-grown players (Maltese national or a foreign player who played for four years in a nursery between the age of 12 and 18) in the match-day squad for Premier League clubs which is in line with EU rules. This means that a club could field up to seven foreign players in the starting line-up but then has to have seven Maltese players on the bench. There will be no changes in Divisions 1, 2 and 3 – three foreigners on the pitch for the First Division clubs and one foreigner for Second and Third Division clubs.

Meanwhile during the EGM, president Norman Darmanin Demajo said this was a huge reform and although not perfect and there is definitely room for improvement, it has set the base which takes everyone into consideration. He said that there was a most comprehensive exercise behind this reform and that the association always had the good of the game in mind.

He thanked Dr Bonnett for his sterling work in rewriting the regulations after listening to the various opinions from stakeholders. Darmanin Demajo went on to thank all those involved in what he described as the creation of a milestone.

The MFA President went on to say that the next step is the commercialisation of clubs.

Darmanin Demajo said that he believes the 7+11 rule will give Maltese players more chance. He said that although he was not in full agreement with the proposal, the association agreed to change as it was out of line with EU regulations.

“There is a pool of talented players and you should we focus more on them. They are lost on the way as they do not find the right infrastructure to become professional. With the lots of money spent by Premier clubs, it’s almost the same amount for running a club on a semi-professional basis. The government is ready to help with regards to commercialisation and income would be more guaranteed,” concluded the MFA President.