PFAM refuses to rule out player strike over unpaid salaries

The Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia (PFAM) is demanding an end to the long standing practice of players and teams signing multiple contracts, saying it breaches labour law in the country.

The unpaid salary claims by ATM players has begun a chain of events that could lead to more serious implications.

It is an open secret that Malaysian clubs and players sign double contracts – one declared to the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and another ‘under the table’ that is usually of a higher figure.

Such arrangements lead to questions if income tax was duly paid and if the right amounts were paid to the players’ respective retirement fund.

While the reasons are plenty for such arrangements, PFAM insisted footballers in the country were being exploited because they lack knowledge on the regulations.

“This is a worrying and disappointing tradition in Malaysian football. Usually the second contract is of a higher figure. Only the one submitted to FAM is recognised, but the second contract is still a valid on by law,” said PFAM chief executive officer Izham Ismail.

“This culture has to stop. I’ll be defensive over the players … some are simply unaware of the law because they are not properly educated on these matters. PFAM have been doing more to educate the players.

“I can only speculate why the clubs prefer offering two contracts. Perhaps, they don’t want to contribute much to the retirement and welfare funds. FAM must be firm on this. It also breaches the Employment Act.

“We have had meetings with FAM regarding this but it was just at secretariat level, not with the decision makers. We need to standardise the contracts in line with FIFA.”

On December 30, 15 ATM players filed a suit against ATM in civil court over six months of unpaid salaries under the undeclared contract. Their lawyers are seeking a judgement in default next week after ATM did not respond to the suit.

The 15 ATM players affected were Hairuddin Omar, Abdul Shukor Jusoh, Affizee Mamat, Syed Adney Hussein, Azmeer Yusof, Azreen Zulkafli, Riduan Ma'on, Nor Fazly Alias, K. Reuben, Yusaini Hafiz Che Saad, S. Thinagaran, Abdulafees Abdulsalam, Jerry Palacios, Obinna Nwaneri and Razi Effendi Suhit.

Meanwhile, the FAM status committee ordered the Gladiators to pay just one month of unpaid salaries by the end of December based on the contract submitted to the national body at the start of the season. PFAM submitted another complaint on January 7 over ATM’s failure to adhere to the order but FAM have yet to respond to complaint.

In total – including the claims of five former Kelantan players and former Felda United player Azrul Ahmad – PFAM are pushing FAM to flex their muscles and ensure some RM4.47 million are paid to the 21 players above.

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“We have been in the dark over Azrul’s case. The status committee ordered Felda to pay RM220,000 by December 22 for terminating a two-year contract after one year without cause. We heard Felda are appealing the decision but we have not received anything official,” said Izham.

“This can’t go on. We have a systemic problem here. There are limitations to what our next course of action can be. It’s hard to take the matter to FIFA because of the regulations present here … only foreign players can go directly to FIFA.

“I hope Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) will apply more pressure on the teams. Deduct points and demote teams if necessary. The welfare of the players must be taken care of and this will only reflect the professionalism.”

Izham did not discounted the possibility of a player strike but later conceded the body did not have the numbers to make an impact yet. PFAM have over 400 players at the moment.

“We are working towards being a more united front. If you look at the PFAs in Europe, they have been around for decades. Maybe, one day we’ll have a very strong voice too.”