The Malta Football Association is engaged in regular discussions with all the stakeholders in local football on the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought football to a standstill across Europe. These on-going discussions are conducive to a co-ordinated and coherent approach to tackle football-related problems and challenges the world is facing during these unprecedented times.
Following up on the discussions held with the stakeholders and also at Bureau level, the Malta FA yesterday convened a video-conference meeting of the Social Dialogue Committee to discuss industrial and regulatory matters. The Social Dialogue Committee brings together representatives of clubs, players and coaches to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the status and transfer of players, and employment (working terms in football are specific).
During the meeting, the representatives on the Social Dialogue Committee were requested to obtain their members’ mandate to discuss on their behalf and take the necessary decisions. One of the key proposals is for the stakeholders to agree on an ad-hoc Collective Bargaining Agreement on work-related issues in line with FIFA regulations but in the context of the different scenarios related to the current football season.
STATUS OF PLAYERS, COACHES AND STAFF
As part of the on-going situation assessment, the Social Dialogue Committee also looked at the definition of the status of players, coaches and staff in the different categories, namely full-time and part-time.
The total of registered contracts in all divisions between players, coaches and staff is 845 which, added to the number of full-time and part-time staff employed by the Association, would exceed 1,000 employees.
GRANTS AND SCHEME BENEFITS GUARANTEED
During a videoconference call with members of the media, Bjorn Vassallo, the Malta FA President, stressed that the Association will be honouring its financial commitments to the clubs and member associations, regardless of when the competitions will resume as well as in the event that matches are played behind closed doors.
The budgets allocated for the Guaranteed Gate Income Scheme and other grants have been confirmed, notwithstanding the lack of ticketing revenue due to the current suspension of football competitions during the most interesting part of the season.
“The sustainability of our clubs is our primary concern during these unprecedented times where everyone is called upon to identify effective solutions to survive,” Vassallo said.
“While the health, safety and well-being of everyone is the foremost priority, it is also our collective responsibility to safeguard football.
“During this delicate time, amendments and temporary dispensations to the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) are imperative to provide a clear direction to football clubs at all levels across Europe.”
The Association’s Bureau has adopted a series of immediate measures in response to the current crisis, including the suspension of the domestic club licensing process and the CPD criteria for the renewal of coaches’ licences for season 2020-21, while the EU residence permits obligation has been temporarily suspended.
Article 4.6 of Section IV of the Association’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players has been temporarily amended to make it possible for clubs and players to reach a mutual agreement over the termination of contractual obligations.
Participants at the Social Dialogue videoconference meeting were given an update on the discussions held at international level, especially in UEFA and FIFA fora, to address the complications caused by the coronavirus.
While the COVID-19 emergency has already led a number of clubs across Europe to lay off players and staff members in what many are regarding as ‘Force Majeure’ circumstances, other principles being considered include salary reductions and deferrals, and amendments to the periods when players and coaching staff normally take their vacation leave.
The Social Dialogue Committee will be taking difficult decisions on these matters during a videoconference meeting being held on Wednesday.
The Malta FA President said that these issues are also being studied by the FIFA COVID-19 Working Group as RSTP matters fall under FIFA’s responsibility. The Malta FA adheres to the FIFA regulations and RSTP-related disputes are handled by The Complaints Board for local players, coaches and other staff, while FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber deals with claims made by foreigners.
In the meantime, the Malta FA is currently in the process of compiling a report on the extent of the financial damages the COVID-19 crisis will have on the Association, member clubs, the Gozo FA, youth sector and other stakeholders, including MFA SportsPlus Limited which has also been adversely effected as all the training camps scheduled for the March-May period have been cancelled.
As far as the financial aid measures announced by the government so far, sports organisations only stand to benefit from the deferral of tax payments since sports is not among the sectors included in the latest financial aid package.
Vassallo explained that UEFA has presented a number of scenarios based on hypothetical timelines as to when football competitions could resume, always depending on the direction given by the health authorities.
The Malta FA President said that, in the current circumstances, UEFA is not excluding anything. While the Malta FA is awaiting guidance from the European football body, the Association is being proactive, drawing up an action plan to ensure that it is ready and prepared to resume normal activities if and when the competitions can continue.
Clubs are to be given 14 days’ notice on the submission of the revised fixtures when the health authorities eventually give the go-ahead for the competitions to resume. At present, all football and futsal competitions are suspended.
All these matters are to be further discussed during a video-conference meeting between the General Secretaries of the 55 National Associations affiliated with UEFA.