Good governance and clean hands: Why the PFAM is against a salary cap

The Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia (PFAM) recently rejected the idea of salary caps for Malaysia Super League players. PFAM chief executive Izham Ismail tells Vijhay Vick why the real focus should be on better financial controls for clubs...

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The PFAM have been growing in stature since getting registered in 2014. Though established in 2009, the set-up remained dormant for several years. Today, they represent 400 players – a figure Izham believes will only increase as they make their presence felt in the football scene.

Izham sat down with FourFourTwo at PFAM’s office in Subang Jaya to tackle issues such as late payment of salaries, protecting the rights of players, the relationship with football authorities and a potential contractual mess as the Malaysia Cup is extended beyond the end of players’ contracts.

FFT: Let’s start with the hot debate on ballooning player salaries. Should it be capped?

We are against placing a ceiling on player salaries and in fact feel there should be a minimum salary because of the nature of the career, where the duration is not very long and the transition for some have been bad. The players should be free to value themselves. At the end of the day, it is up to the teams to offer what they can afford.

FFT: Some teams claim the wage bill is too high and this is why late payments often occur. Don’t you think a salary cap could help solve this problem?

Under the general contractual terms, a player does not make an offer. He merely states an intention. It is the club which makes the offer. Our hope is to see good governance, professional management and realistic financial budgeting at all teams. Teams should only spend what they have. Unfortunately, salary delays don’t seem to stop. Perlis’ case was an achievement for PFAM because we showed the players have someone to represent them. We kept pushing Perlis and Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) to act on the matter. There are still six cases on salary disputes due to termination without cause pending since June.

Izham is joined by PFAM president Hairuddin Omar (centre) as they help Kelantan flood victims

What is PFAM’s advice to players who face salary delays? Do they just stop playing?

Come to us and let us represent you. The players must stay professional and do their part of the contract. Their obligations are to play, so do that. At the same time, the matter should be brought to our attention so we can talk to the club and even FAM if required. Never stop playing. There is a legal term, ‘He who comes to equity, must come with clean hands’.

The Malaysia Cup is surely going well into December. What is the situation with regards to players with contracts ending on November 30?

Many players’ service with their clubs end on November 30.  By right, they are free agents as per the contractual regulations. However, the Regulation of Status & Transfers (RSTP) provides that a minimum contract is until the end of the season. It is ambiguous as no period is defined. This is something we must sort immediately. Our advice is for the clubs still in the competition to negotiate an extension period for the services of such players. This could help avoid an abuse by the players being tied to unfair contracts.

Speaking of players’ contracts, how well are they protected?

There is a need to improve the contracts because it is not extensive enough. There are many areas that need to be beefed up. We have spoken with the FAM legal department and Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) and even submitted a 10-point revamp recommendation a month ago. New contracts should conform to FIFA’s recommendation to member associations in Circular No.1171 in 2008. The 10 things we have highlighted include longer contracts for players (two years at least, subject to age), the need for players’ representative and compulsory minimum benefits embedded in the contract. Things such as leave entitlement and bonuses should be included. Including bonuses could be a bargaining chip for clubs to lower salaries as it could be more performance based.

Izham with Selangor FA players and staff

How is the response to PFAM by the players, FAM and teams – which are still mostly State FAs?

We need to create a bigger awareness of our existence to the players. Our members are ambassadors. They need to know we are here for them. Our relationship with FAM is very positive. They cooperate when we request information and documents. FIFA signed a memorandum of understanding with FIFPro in Barcelona in 2008. It requires all member associations to respect their respective PFAs. We have no agreement in black and white with FAM and we do not wish to be a FAM affiliate because we need to be totally independent. From a legal standpoint, we have registered with the Malaysian Sports Development Act 1997. As for the teams, it seems like some State FAs don’t want to work with us. Everyone is territorial. We bug them and we know it is annoying but we don’t know how else to get things done. I hope everyone can open their minds. We are here to help footballers, their profession and ultimately the sport.

Some players don’t seem to know what terms they sign apart from their salaries and length of contract. How is PFAM tackling this?

We are educating the players on their legal rights, importance of proper insurance and even the need to ensure they have an alternative career. We offer the players free legal advice and representation too. We are in talks with FAM to offer footballers coaching courses. The National Football Development Programme will be part of it and they could even provide a platform for players to complete their coaching hours for badges. We have also had discussions with private institutions to offer courses but we need the numbers so this will only take off later.

To find out more about the Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia, you can visit their website at