MFPA launches proposals for MFA "to shift to professionalism"

The Malta Football Players Association issued a statement pointing out a number of issues that need to be addressed, saying that in order for the level of Maltese football to improve, there needs to be a shift to professionalism and this includes more players to turn full-time.

“However the current state of Maltese football rules does not encourage players to think of football as a professional career. MFPA believes that only when the Clubs and MFA agree that their regulations for the protection of local players are adequate, will Maltese players look at football as a professional career seriously.”

Transfer fees for out of contract players
Malta is one of the few countries that insist on a transfer fee even at the end of a player’s contract. To put things in perspective, a player who has completed his contractual obligation with a team, must still pay a transfer fee to join a team of his choosing. Why not abolish the transfer system and come in line with the rest of Europe, who took this step after the Bosman ruling of 1995? No player is encouraged to shift to football full-time if he does not have the basic right to work for an employer of his choosing.

Introduction of training compensation fee
A more recent development introduced a training compensation fee which partly, and indirectly, replaced the reduction in the parameters fee discussed in many scenarios. What this means in practical terms is that once a player signs his first contract, a fee is to be paid to all the clubs that the player has played with between the ages of 12 and 21.

What this translates to in real terms, is a further disincentive for clubs to sign their players as professionals, since doing so will incur costs that can reach amounts of up to € 18,000.

MFPA has received various criticism from clubs, parents and players. Indeed we have also unfortunately continued to face situations where clubs gave no other option to players but to sign as amateurs and therefore not having a written agreement stating the obligations of each party but still pay the players nonetheless.

Unpaid salaries
MFPA also wants to highlight the fact that currently one encounters situations where players are still owed more than 6 months worth of salary with little remedies available to players to enforce payment. Players loyal to their club do not wish to file procedures and risk the relationship they have built over the years with their club. MFPA encourages everyone especially anyone asking players to make sacrifices, to ask themselves; how can a part-time player even consider leaving his job to play full-time football if they are not paid? Unfortunately this scenario is not exclusive to the lower divisions and was witnessed also in the top division.

The player status reform did nothing to address this issue effectively since part-time players who are not paid for example 8 consecutive salaries are still not given remedies to freely terminate their contract due to non-payment and seek another employer. Full-time players on the other hand must wait for 3 consecutive non-payments for them to be allowed to terminate their contract. MFPA feels this situation is evidence of the fact that players in Malta are tied down with a lot of obligations, and very few ineffective remedies and rights.

Young players unfairly penalised
MFPA wants to highlight the situation of our youths, the minor amateur player. In Malta parents are being sometimes asked to pay hefty amounts, even in the region of €1,200 so that their child, aged 13 – 15 years, can join any club of their choice. These players are already paying an annual membership fee and pay for their kits. Young players are being treated as assets, with no rights at all. MFPA feels that situations such as these are pushing young players away from the Maltese football scene from a very early age. How should such youths be expected to view football as a possible professional career?

When MFA is challenged
Unfortunately, MFA whose mission should be to holistically improve the football sector in Malta, runs its own affairs and their rules explicitly forbid anyone from seeking refuge from outside authorities. A case in point, is that of a former national team player who played over 50 games for the national team and who was owed over one year salaries from a club. The player in question gave his club the opportunity to pay him for over 2 years. When he was still not paid he resorted to MFA for help into enforcing his payment order. The MFA Complaints board at the time ruled in favour of the club since the association rules dictate that money owed should be requested within a year from when they were due. The player’s patience with the club was rewarded with a slap in the face. Due to this the player had no other way of recovering what was owed to him other than by resorting to the judicial system. Because this player used his right as a citizen of Malta to settle the matter within the judicial system, the MFA suspended him and he has been unable to play or coach in Malta for the past 3 years. The player is currently treated as a persona non-grata by the Association only because he wants to be paid for the services he has given and for which he has a document signed by his club attesting the sums as due.

MFPA believe that this case shows what would happen to any player or coach who decides to use his right to file a court case against another member of the association without the express permission of the Association. Experience also shows that when a player has asked for such permission, the Association not only did not give its go ahead, but also failed to even reply to the request.

Home-grown players
MFA tried hard in the past few years to provide young home-grown players opportunities to join foreign clubs but to no avail as for some reason or another, this program seems to have failed. At the same time however, something which seems to be contradictory is that the federation or the clubs limited the places for young home-grown players to play in the Maltese top-division. So how is it expected that young players are good enough to join foreign clubs if they are not even given the opportunity to play in the Maltese top division which is not even a professional league?

In conclusion, if we are serious about taking Maltese football to a higher level, the association needs to first take a hard look at the rules and regulations, and make the necessary changes for this evolution to be possible. Let’s dare to think of Maltese football without the transfer system fee at the end of the contract and of Maltese football players as professionals. The regulators need to set the framework right without further delay or excuses. Players should no longer be asked to make unjust sacrifices or take gambles, when this involves their very livelihood.