Throw the book at Kelantan or be a Mickey Mouse association

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) should make a lesson out of the Red Warriors as Kelantan have simply amassed too much debt for them to see the light at the end of the tunnel, writes Vijhay Vick… 

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Imagine this. The company you work for is out of funds, you have not been paid for several months and later released.

You take the case to the labour court, get a decision and walk home happy but all you do is wait, wait, and wait for what is duly yours.

The payment deadlines are later not met and the very same court you won your case with decides to grant more time to the company, warning of further consequences but never really acting on it.

In the meantime, the company continues operating as per norm and accumulates more debt.

Repeat that several times and you will have Kelantan, one-time the jewel of the East Coast but now a club struggling to cope with financial obligations despite the promise of riches from new sponsors at the start of the season.

If this continues, FAM may end up losing respect (if not already) and authority.

The Malaysia Super League side has amassed a debt of over RM1.4 million, and that is merely from compensation owed to former coach Steve Darby, ex-striker Gilmar Jose da Silva and five local players – Amiridzwan Taj Tajuddin, Amar Rohidan, Ahmad Fakri Saarani, Fitri Omar and Nazri Ahmad.

On Monday, the Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia (PFAM) revealed Kelantan had not met the second scheduled payment due to the five players on April 15 and demanded the Red Warriors be punished for it.

Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) chief executive officer Kevin Ramalingam also called FAM to deduct points or relegate the club as constant reoccurrence of such incidents may tarnish the reputation of the league.

Kelantan, however, feel FAM will understand their situation and grant more leeway, adding the national body derives power from its state affiliates.

Kelantan current players are also vulnerable to not getting paid

“Whether it’s right to punish us or not is a question that must be seen together with our financial capabilities. We are facing a financial situation and have asked to extend the deadline,” Kelantan FA general-secretary Datuk Ismail Md Noor told FourFourTwo.

“We are working hard to get funds in and collect what is due from our sponsors.

“Everyone should give and take in this situation. We are not saying we won’t honour our payments … it’s just delayed. I believe FAM will understand our situation.

“Also, it is us, state FAs, who empower FAM and contribute to Malaysian football. It’s only Kevin who wants to punish us, instead of looking at ways we can help each other,” said Ismail.

While points deduction or relegation are ways FAM could look to penalise Kelantan, a transfer ban should also be considered until Kelantan’s books are no longer in the red.

Kelantan have assets to sell too. The likes of Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Brendan Gan, Wan Zaharulnizam Zakaria and Wan Zack Haikal are sought after and could be put up on sale to balance the books.

Kelantan also missed an April 15 deadline to pay Gilmar approximately USD90,000 (RM358,695), which comprised signing on fees, agent’s fees, goal bonuses and three months of salary in 2015.

FourFourTwo understands Gilmar could take the matter to FIFA if the extended deadline on May 9 is also not met and FAM does not take action accordingly then after.

Meanwhile, Kelantan will soon know their fate of an appeal to a RM636,000 payout to former coach Steve Darby, who was sacked just four months into the job in April 2014.

Kelantan still owe Steve Darby money

If common sense prevails, the appeals committee will throw out the plea as Kelantan showed little respect to the status committee previously.

Darby initially only sought RM240,000 to terminate his contract but Kelantan refused to entertain the request.

In July 2015, the status committee had granted Kelantan a second chance to negotiate compensation with the Englishman after it ignored Darby’s previous attempts to settle the matter amicably.

Annoyed with Kelantan’s lack of response, the status committee awarded Darby full compensation for the 17 months remaining.

Now, what message would the appeals committee send if it entertains Kelantan’s desperate attempt to reduce their debt through their fault and only theirs alone?

If appeal is granted, would the status committee command respect in future cases? What precedent would FAM would be setting?

Surely, the legal proverb ‘he who comes to equity must come with clean hands’, has some standing the legal side of football.

FIFA showed FAM the way in dealing with such cases when it ordered the national body to deduct six points from Pahang’s 2015 MSL campaign and affected their AFC Cup qualification. Further sanctions have been mooted for ignoring a FIFA order to pay Mohamed Borji compensation for wrongful termination.

The decision makers in FAM also need to send such a message one and for all. Kelantan have violated the rights of players and coaches by not paying them, repeatedly.

Interestingly, despite all their financial woes, Kelantan president Tan Sri Annuar Musa hinted at a massive player reshuffle in the mid-season window, something that would only incur additional cost.

So do FAM throw the book at Kelantan and stand their ground – going a long way in standing up for the rights of the players and coaches – or will be they be branded a Mickey Mouse club for letting Kelantan off with a slap on the wrist?