Former Birkirkara FC coach Paul Zammit issued a statement after the MFA Appeals Board confirmed the decision of the MFA Complaints Board which had ordered the club to pay him the sums of €15,000 and €108,000 plus 5% yearly interest from the date of the decision while imposing a prohibition on the transfer of players with immediate effect.
Statement – Paul Zammit
Now, following the Appeal Board’s confirmation of the decision taken by the Complaints Board in relation to my case, in which my contract with B’Kara FC has been terminated and damages awarded, I would like to provide clarification on all that has been said by some of the administrators in these last months, most often with disparaging and libellous words, intended solely as a way to sully the personality and skill of my person. Any hope I had of solving this issue in private has been lost and so I feel I should have the opportunity to defend my reputation by telling everyone the truth. My biggest regret in all that has happened, is that the B’Kara Club is in this midst of it all. I have never and could never, hold a grudge against the Club. My dispute was only with some (not all) individuals at the helm of the Club, not the Club itself. B’Kara FC is a Club with great history and deserves to remain one of the primary clubs in the country. I cannot refrain from thanking precedent administrations for the opportunity and trust they gave me, which allowed me to work hard and enjoy successes throughout these past years. Although the Club has gone through a difficult season, I am sure that with the right leadership and an organised structure, B’Kara FC, can once again get into a rhythm and challenge for titles in the upcoming seasons.
Although the dispute with me began in October 2018, and although in the local media a lot of disparaging and untruthful words were said about me by some club officials, I decided to keep silent and not respond to all that was being said, and I did this for two specific reasons. The first, was due to the respect I hold for the players and the technical staff. While I was there, I did not want the team to lose concentration, I wanted the players to be focused on the matches and not on my issues with the Club. The second and biggest reason as to why I kept silent was due to the high esteem in which I hold the genuine club supporters, who remained close to me throughout all that happened. I did not want to add insult to injury by airing club issues in the media which could sully the club’s name.
I returned as a B’Kara Coach for season 2017/2018, the season had started on a not so positive note, but with the help of the administration, players, and technical staff, the Club managed to turn things around and qualify for Europe and for the final of the FA Trophy. Following this, a decision was taken, to change many elements of the team and to form a new team for season 2018/2019. In August 2019, myself and the Club reached an agreement and signed a three year contract, because the project we wanted to embark on looked ahead to the future. After a beginning with various fortunes and varying results, exactly eight games into the season, in October 2018 I was asked by the President of the Club to consider handing in my resignation. Three months after I signed a three year contract. Although shocked by this request, I discussed it with various people around and within the Club and my decision after a few hours was to refuse the request to resign. I wanted to further carry the responsibility. I wanted to continue working for what I believed was the best for the Club.
I continued working, and although from a training and matches perspective, everything continued as normal and results kept improving consistently, myself, the team and the technical staff were completely abandoned and my communication with these individuals within the administration was coming to an end. There was a complete divide. I could not understand why the Club administrators where doing everything they could to hamper the serenity of their own team. However, it was my duty to continue protecting my team and technical staff and together we faced each week with utter dedication. It was only due to the work of those staff members who remained loyal to me and the dedication of the players, that the team could go on and face games with strength. From when I was asked to resign in October 2018, until the end of December 2018, the team played six matches, and managed to win five. At the end of the first round, the B’Kara team was only seven points away from the team in the top position, only four points away from the team that eventually won the title, and in the last sixteen for the FA Trophy. With a whole new round and FA trophy games still to be played, the season was still open for us.
Then, at the end of the first round, from the middle of December, until the end of the January transfer window, the club administration brought in, and transferred players without consulting me. They changed half the team. As Head Coach, I had a contractual right and duty to take responsibility and be involved in any type of change in the team. However, the administration decided otherwise and continued in their stubborn ways, which led to B’Kara FC ending the season nineteen points behind the champions and eliminated from the FA Trophy. They also managed to go through three coaches after me. I understood perfectly, why the team did badly in the second round. The players and the technical staff could not work in a serene environment and psychologically they could not be prepared enough to reach their full potential on the pitch.
On January 4th 2019, the President and his committee sent for me and informed me that the club had hired John Arne Riise as a Sport Director, whereby he would be running the technical staff and was responsible for, among other things, decisions relating to the team, training and matches. Apart from this being a clear contractual breach, I could never, as Head coach, agree with such a recruitment, and I wanted to stay true to my principles as Coach and as a human being. The President gave me two options, either I stay on and work under this person, who was not a qualified coach and obey all instructions, or else resign. As soon as I was told this, I immediately informed the President that I dissented to such recruitment, even because it clearly breached our contractual terms, and that if I return to training, I will do my work in my role as Head Coach. I was definitively not going to accept the humiliation of staying on with the Club as Head Coach only in name and signature. The Club did not want me to do my job as Head Coach and so, by mutual agreement between the two parties, I was excused from attending training and club matches, until this issue could be resolved. I can understand how the Club, like any other Club, might not agree with the technical leadership and may wish to change things, however there are just ways in which this can be done. The sole aim of these individuals within the Club was to create situations with which they could force my resignation.
Following the recruitment of Riise, me together with my legal consultants, did everything we could to come to a reciprocal and peaceful solution for both parties. In fact, correspondence between my consultants and the Club continued, among other things, a Dissent letter was sent to the club, clearly showing my dissent for Riise’s
recruitment because it breached my own contract . On the 10th of January 2019 I also sent a draft agreement which I proposed to the club, so that the issue could be solved amicably. I proposed that, although I had not been paid my salary since August 2018, the contract would terminate via a financial settlement up until the end of 2019. I was willing to forgive the remaining two years in salaries I was entitled to on the contract. However, this, together with other correspondence, was never considered by club administrators. Therefore on the 21st of January 2019, I had to submit a Default Notice, as per MFA rules, giving the club fifteen days to remedy the contractual breaches. This Default Notice was also ignored by the Club administrators. On the 24th January 2019, we once more wrote to the B’Kara FC lawyer, informing him that we were open to any proposals so that the issue could be resolved amicably. Once again, we received no response and on the 11 February 2019, I had no other option but to submit my case to the MFA Complaints Board for a just resolution.
It was not my intention to go this far but I had no other way. I Continued working in unacceptable conditions from October 2018 until December 2018 and in January 2019 I tried proposing amicable termination agreements various times, but the administration chose to ignore me. The Complaints Board heard my case and on the 25th March 2019 found in my favour, ordered termination of the contract with damages in my favour and imposed a prohibition on the Club. The Club appealed this decision, and the Board of Appeal on the 5 July 2019, also found in my favour and confirmed the decision of the Complaints Board.
This is exactly what happened in my dispute with these club administrators. This is the truth, and all that I have written here is strengthened and proven by documents and correspondence which was presented to the Complaints Board and the Appeals Board. This is why the case was won in both instances.
I am saddened that I had to go through this experience, because ultimately it was not good for anyone and honestly everyone suffered. It was a very difficult time for me and I went through a very dark patch. I hope no coach will ever go through anything similar. I knew that if I wanted to hold on to my principles I would have to go through pain, but my principles and values as Coach and as a human being cannot be bent or sold. I suffered in silence, as did members of my family. During this period I realised who my true friends were, who truly respected me, who believed in me and who had my best interest at heart.
I thank God for holding me steadfast, and everyone who helped and believed in me; my family and close friends; players and staff members who remained loyal; supporters of Maltese football; the Malta Football Players Association (MFPA), who opened their doors for me despite the fact that I am a coach not a player. In particular Carlo Mamo, who has been a continuous shoulder for me. Heartfelt thanks goes to Dr. Sihon Gauci who represented me from the very beginning, as well as Dr.Robert Dingli and Dr. Joe Giglio for their legal support.