The Malta Football Association’s Executive Committee held a videoconference meeting yesterday to identify solutions for the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and pro-actively plan for the future.
At the start of the meeting, Malta FA President Bjorn Vassallo reaffirmed that the overriding priority is the health and well-being of all, adding that the football competitions, currently suspended indefinitely, will only return when it is safe to do so in line with medical guidance.
The guidelines issued by FIFA on Tuesday to address some of the key practical issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were one of the main items on the agenda of the meeting. The Executive Committee endorsed these guidelines which centre around three core principles:
• agreements expiring at the end of the current season will be automatically extended in parallel with the likely extension of the season as decided by the Association
• agreements that cannot be performed as anticipated due to the current COVID-19 situation
• the adjustment of the transfer windows
The guidelines will direct all member associations on regulatory and legal issues, ensuring that the response is harmonised in the common interest.
PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS’ RESOLUTION
The Executive Committee also took note and welcomed a resolution signed by all the 14 Premier League clubs. In recognising that the monthly wage figures established by the Government represent a proportionate measure, the top-flight clubs have resolved to meet these minimum payment criteria for full-time registered players.
FIFA is also encouraging clubs and employees to work together to find appropriate collective agreements on a club and league basis.
SEASON CALENDAR SCENARIOS
The extension of the current season and the rescheduling of UEFA and domestic licensing and financial deadlines were also discussed during the Exco meeting. Different calendar scenarios for the return of the domestic senior and youth football competitions organised by the Malta FA were discussed. The Executive Committee supported the position that, if the circumstances permit, these should be completed.
The return dates are under constant review with all stakeholders and the continuation of the competitions will only be with the full backing of the Superintendent of Public Health.
The calendar scenarios take into consideration specific factors pertaining to the leagues in different categories. The BOV Premier League, FA Trophy, BOV Women’s League and the Futsal League must be completed within the timeframe proposed by UEFA as these championships determine which clubs compete in the UEFA club competitions.
As far as the other senior teams’ competitions are concerned, namely the BOV First, Second and Third Division Leagues, the Amateur Futsal League, Youth Leagues and the GFA leagues, Cup and Knock-Out, these can recommence at a later date since the current football season will be extended beyond the usual closure date of 8th June.
AMATEUR, YOUTH FA AND GYFA COMPETITIONS
The Executive Committee also agreed that the amateur leagues organised by the Member Associations, the Youth FA and the Gozo Youth FA competitions will not continue during the current football season. The potential outcomes for amateur competitions will be discussed within the respective standing committee and communicated in due course.
MALTA FA PRESIDENT’S REACTION
While reiterating that the COVID-19 pandemic has created extraordinary challenges for football worldwide, Malta FA President Bjorn Vassallo expressed his satisfaction at the guidelines issued by FIFA on regulatory and legal matters, and the Premier League clubs’ resolution on the wages of full-time players.
“In endorsing and adopting the proposals in the FIFA document, the Malta FA will apply these guidelines within its judicial bodies, thus ensuring a coherent response,” Vassallo said.
“I’m also pleased to take note of the resolution signed by the 14 Premier League clubs. This is the time for all social partners to show maturity and strive to reach bilateral agreements that would make it possible for all of us to cope with the challenges, something that can only be achieved through burden-sharing allowing us to safeguard the well-being of all our football clubs.
“As the governing body of Maltese football, the Malta FA has an obligation to be pro-active and provide guidance to its members and stakeholders.
“With regard to the disruption of the football season and the potential restart of the domestic competitions, the Malta FA’s position is aligned with that of UEFA on the basis of the resolution signed jointly with the European Club Association, European Leagues and FIFPro.
“We are supporting the collective commitment to complete the season and have sporting verdicts from our competitions, even if this means delaying the end of the season. We have presented different calendar scenarios based on an extension of the current season and working on a course of action which, until now, is plausible but always dependent on the direction given by health authorities.”
Vassallo said that the current situation has highlighted the need to step up the on-going reforms being undertaken by the Malta FA in various sectors.
“We must give priority to the on-going reforms as this extraordinary period has exposed the vulnerability of football, globally and also at domestic level,” the Malta FA President said.
“We need to strengthen our structures through better governance and models that ensure sustainability, matters that we had already anticipated in what we presented to the Executive Committee in the months prior to the pandemic.”