Unpaid Salaries – The Enigma of Malaysian Football

According to a survey carried out by the global players’ union, Fifpro, the World Footballers’ Association, a large number of football players around the world live a precarious existence in which contracts are not respected and their control over their career path is minimal.

Chief among Fifpro’s concerns is the issue of late payment. FIFA rules allow clubs to pay players up to 90 days after the due date; beyond this point a player is permitted to unilaterally breach his contract although the constraints of the transfer window often make this impractical.

The report found 78% of late payments fell within that three-month window; the remainder, which accounted for nearly one in 10 of the players surveyed, were forced to wait longer.

Fifpro attribute this to “jackpot economics”, whereby clubs spend heavily at the start of a season without knowing whether they can honour projected payments, and during a short career in which only 5% of respondents were aged 33 or above such delays have severe knock-on effects on livelihoods.

In Malaysia, not all professional players; from the Super League down, are highly paid and so any delay in payment of wages can have a significant impact on their lives.

Also, the more players left unpaid and struggling financially can increase the likelihood of corrupt practices such as match fixing which had been the bane of Malaysian football in the early 90s, decimating an Asian powerhouse into minnows of Asian football.

FIFPro, is deeply concerned by this problem and has repeatedly emphasised the need for tighter regulations relating to unpaid wages.

Besides bringing a contractual claim for unpaid wages, the ultimate legal action a player can take is to argue that he is entitled to terminate his contract.

Article 13 of FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (“RSTP”) provides that a contract between a player and a club can only be terminated on expiry of the term of the contract or by mutual agreement.

However, Article 14 of the RSTP allows for a contract to be terminated without any consequences “where there is just cause.”

The non-payment of salaries beyond the 90 day window would constitute just cause for termination given that a club’s obligation to pay a player’s wages is its main obligation as an employer and if this obligation is breached, it can cause the employee’s confidence in the employer to perform the terms of the contract to be lost.

But in Malaysia the fear of stigmatization as well as the need to earn a living prevents our players from truly realising the unique position they occupy as footballers. Unpaid salaries become long running sagas as the players themselves are unwilling to take legal action or approach the Professional Footballers Association Malaysia (PFAM) for fear of being dropped and left to rot by their respective teams and being fearful of being denounced by the Malaysian football fraternity as a whole.

Unfortunately, most players see receiving a portion of their salary being much better than receiving none.

Kudos to PFAM for being an avenue for players to educate themselves in respect to their rights. However, PFAM led by their Chief Executive Officer, Izham Ismail must stop acting like a petulant child with press statements threatening to have a players strike unhelpful to all stakeholders.

The non-payment or late payment of salaries is an endemic problem in Malaysian football which requires careful management to ensure clubs pay players and respect their contracts.

FAM, FMLLP and PFAM would be best advised to put their heads together to ensure a workable salary and payment structure.

Until then, players can just sit tight and keep on using Instagram to claim their dues.

Image: CSNSportsTalk

A football junkie…

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