After presenting his programme to member clubs and member associations, Dr Chris Bonett, one of the two candidates running for the post of MFA President during the association’s Annual General Meeting scheduled for July 20 presented his programme to the media during a press conference at the db San Antonio Hotel & Spa in Qawra on Tuesday.
Thirty-seven year old Dr Chris Bonett joined the Malta Football Association in 2010 as Head of the Legal Department. In 2013, he was elected to the post of MFA Vice-President. However he stepped down in December 2016 to join UEFA as UEFA Integrity Officer. A post he held until August 2017 when he returned to Malta where he served as Senior Consultant to the Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and as Acting Chief Executive Officer of SportMalta. During his career, he served on the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary body and was part of the disciplinary panel for UEFA EURO 2016. He was also author of the new legislation on the commercialisation of sports facilities.
Dr Bonett explained that between January and May, he held a number of discussions with clubs and other stakeholders to gather their ideas on how to improve the game and is now in a position to present a document which is a joint-effort of clubs, member associations and himself.
He went on to explain the main points he believed in were more power to clubs, commercialisation, the game at the core of the association’s work, helping clubs and players become more professional and constant communication between the MFA administration and clubs.
Named ClubsFuqNett, Dr Chris Bonett’s programme is based on six pillars:
- Self-sufficient clubs
- Autonomous leagues
- Progressive technical plan
- Structured academies
- A serious association
- Hard-working grassroots
Dr Bonett explained that administrative, technical and commercial growth would eventually lead to a competitive national team and stronger clubs.
In each of these six pillars, he had short-term, medium-term and long-term targets of three, six and nine years respectively.
A full-time club director would create a business plan, in collaboration with the MFA. Clubs who reach certain criteria would be able to benefit from this club director with the association paying €15,000 for his salary. This would cost the
The scheme for club administrator would be revised. Premier League and First Division clubs would benefit from a €6,000 annual grant while Second and Third Division clubs would receive €5,000 annually. Club administrators have to be qualified through the MFA course in football administration or having served in a committee for more than ten years.
A member services department would be set-up to serve as a one-stop shop in the same way that UEFA runs the national associations division. The success with the COMET software could be replicated with an account software which among other tools would give real-time notifications on amount due by the club to the MFA or owed by the MFA to the club. The department would also support clubs when dealing with government department and agencies.
Apart from the Youth Players’ Grant (a total of €210,000) and the MFA Infrastructure Scheme (€5,000 per club annually), new schemes will be launched – Football Equipment Grant (€2,000 per club annually), Football Facility Insurance Scheme (€500 per club annually) and an ad-hoc assistance fund (€250,000 annually).
With regards to infrastructure, all pitches will be replaced over a period of six years. Experts will assess the condition of these club pitches and ranked according to their needs. Works would start on those in the worse conditions. This would cost the association €4.5 million.
The National Stadium would be regenerated with the North and South Stands being redeveloped to include commercial space.
Works on the National Stadium will take six years to complete. In the first three years, the North Stand and the South Stand would be converted to host commercial space. New stands will be built in the spaces which there are currently between the stand and the pitch. The stadium would have a capacity of 18,000 but a new tier system will be introduced where there will be three levels of 6,000 spectators each and for domestic league matches, only the lower part would be opened. Over the next three years, the West Stand would be completed to host the Home of Maltese Football including the new administrative offices of the Malta Football Association, the Premier League Association, the Football League Association, headquarters for Amateur Associations, the Technical Centre, National Team headquarters and lounges for Premier League clubs. The project will cost €30 million – including €18.3 million for the North and South Stands which have a total of 34 thousand square metres of commercial space. Dr Bonett explained that this amount would be generated from MFA funds, UEFA and FIFA grants, the government and the remaining eleven million from a public bond. He said that a leading stockbroker said that this project was feasible. Within the first ten years, the MFA would generate €5 million and then would earn €3.5 million a year with 85% occupancy. The stadium would be a centre of activity during the whole week – on the model of Juventus’ Allianz Stadium.
The association would create a new commercial company to run the National Stadium, MFA Sportsplus Ltd, Trophies Lounge, Millennium Clinic, Ta’ Qali Fitness Centre, MFA Swimming Pool and the MFCC rental. This new company would have a 55% shareholding by clubs with the MFA retaining just 45% although the board of directors would be made up of a chairman and four members representing the association and four members representing clubs. Profits from the National Stadium would go to the new company and hence clubs would take the largest share from the profit generated. MFA employees in the commercial sector would be transferred to this new company.
The association would take a more active role in making sure clubs take full advantage of the law for the commercialisation of sports facilities. Clubs will be assisted by the MFA and the government in locating areas for their use. Discussions will be held with the government on the creation of a new model of a football club as a company.
The Premier League Association and the Football League Association would be set up in order to run the leagues.
Two football grounds in the south of the island would be redeveloped with stands for 500 spectators to host matches from the lower divisions.
Prize monies in the various leagues would be distributed according to each team’s placing in the league.
Apart from carrying out a study on the Youth League and considering the possibility of re-introducing the Reserves League, a new competition will be introduced – the National League Cup. This will be open for clubs from the Second and Third Division and all clubs in Gozo. The four semi-finalists, apart from competing for this cup, would qualify for the FA Trophy which would therefore be open only for these four clubs apart from the Premier League and the First Division clubs.
Dr Chris Bonett said that a long-term plan has been prepared in order to have players being prepared on a professional basis not only in terms of football but also lifestyle. The objective is to have the best players making it abroad. By 2026, Malta should be able to win the group in League D of the UEFA Nations League.
The plan is to have nurseries divided over six regions with nine nurseries in each region for youngsters at the Under-11 category. The best players in the six regions will be selected mid-way through the season and participate in tournaments while representing their region. The best twenty-five players enter the MFA Academy. These players would no longer play for their nursery but experience life of a professional footballer by going to Ta’ Qali after school hours and stay there as a boarding school, going home only during weekends. Selections would be carried out by foreign coaches. The MFA Academy would take apart in tournaments abroad. The Academy would cater for young players between the age of 11 and 17 when they would be ready to start a professional career. Scholarships and assistance to the young players and their parents would be provided.
Meanwhile a national syllabus would be prepared in order to have a uniform set-up for training and education. Coaching monitors would be appointed in order to visit academies and take action if training is not carried in the appropriate manner. A Scouting Department would be set up within the MFA Technical Centre in order to identify the best possible talents.
Dr Bonett said that he was against the idea of having a Maltese team participating in the Lega Pro, although this could be an option in the long-term.
Restructuring in the Youth FA was of utmost importance so that it could focus more on helping nurseries in improving administration. An ad-hoc committee would be created in order to consult all nurseries before proposals are prepared.
A financial grant of €500 will be given annually to each nursery to buy equipment.
The MFA Technical Centre will monitor constantly coaches working in nurseries. The association will have a team of professionals – physical trainers, nutritionists, sports psychologists, etc. – to assist nurseries for free.
In the short term, Community Outreach Programmes would be created to make them more relevant.
In the short term, there should be a reform in the statute of the Malta Football Association. The association has to run in a proper business concern.
The MFA President should be hands-on and serve on a full-time basis and should serve for a maximum eight or nine-year term. The President should also have clubs and the local game as his top priority and communicate regularly with clubs and member associations.
Vice-presidents would be responsible for a number of member clubs which could therefore have a point of reference. The role of general secretary would be more functional by focussing on football rather than other matters. The Council would meet on a more regular basis.
There would be a reform in the Disciplinary Code so that it no longer remain a tax collection exercise.
A Finance Committee would be created in order to approve expenses above a certain amount. MFA budgets and accounts, together with the salaries of officials and directors, would be made public in order to guarantee transparency.
Member associations would be given a grant of €1,500 annually for administrative purposes. A standing committee to represent non-league associations would be created and they would have two representatives in the MFA Executive Committee. The MFA would buy a space to serve as premises for the Non-Leagues Associations until works on the new premises within the West Stand of the National Stadium are completed.
The champions of the various non-league associations would take part in a new competition to determine the champion of non-league football who would then take part in a tournament abroad.
All coaches and referees would have to be members of the MFCA and MFRA respectively. These associations would have a member in the MFA Executive Committee. In future, the MFPA could have similar representation.
A new strategy for refereeing would be launched in order to lengthen the time a referee reach the top level so that the quality of refereeing improves.
With regards to women’s football, the MFA would launch a marketing campaign meant at attracting more girls to the game. A ten-year strategy for women’s football will be launched and nurseries following this strategy would be given special incentives.
A new land to host a Futsal Pavilion will be identified in collaboration with the government. Futsal will be given due importance as a means to develop players. There would be a reform of the Futsal league, in order to increase participation by allowing amateur teams to take part.
A new Beach Soccer stadium will be build at the MFA Training Grounds, close to the main entrance of the ASM race track.
The Gozo Football Association will be given the necessary assistance in order to continue improving the level of the game in Gozo. Together with the government, Gozitan clubs will be assisted in improving their facilities.