Despicable Behaviour By Club Owners
Some club owners get away with murder when it comes to the treatment meted out to their players. A number of our players are owed signing-on fees from previous seasons, while others still struggle to get their salaries on time, yet they are expected to perform miracles on the field of play, week in and week out.
The level of disrespect faced by our players is alarming. I know of players who have hung up their boots with their clubs still owing them part of their signing-on fees. The players don’t, or rather won’t, fight with these clubs because there are only so many teams one can play for. Some, for fear of being victimised and ‘blacklisted’ in the industry, choose to suffer in silence as long as they get to play the game. A number of players are only happy to be regarded as professional footballers while the treatment and environment they’re exposed to is even worse than that of some amateur teams.
Because everything happens behind the scenes, supporters usually know little to nothing about these shenanigans. Not every Absa Premiership club is like Bloemfontein Celtic, for example, where supporters have a constant personal relationship and meetings with their players to discuss club matters, therefore chances of players opening up to their supporters are very slim.
Take the recent, well-publicised financial woes at Celtic for example. Do you think any other team would have been hung out to dry like that with their internal problems? It would never have happened but, because Celtic supporters are so respected and taken into consideration, it became easy for them to find out what was going on and come up with possible solutions to the problems. It was easy for the players to open up about their struggles and it was even easier for their coach, Steve Komphela, to address them to clarify a few things after his first match against his former employers recently. It is because of that close-knit relationship between the club and the supporters that Celtic management can’t get away with a lot because they will always be held to account by their passionate supporters.
Sadly, the same can’t be said about a lot of other teams, as players have no one to turn to when things turn sour. The contracts signed between the players and clubs seem to count only when it suits the clubs. If a player misses training or goes Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL), he will be punished according to the contract terms; however, if the club fails to deliver on their contractual obligations, like paying the player’s salary on time, nothing happens. If a player demands a better salary, if and when the time arises to negotiate new terms, the club has a right to dismiss him and expect life to go on as normal. Once the player starts looking after his own interests, searching for greener pastures, he’s in the wrong and could face disciplinary action.
A player signs a pre-contract with another club and it is a crime! He’s viewed as someone who committed treason, a backstabber, a leopard that has lost its spots. Yet, the same player tried to talk sense to his club to try and get them to improve his contract without any success. Then the player gets disenfranchised, dropped from the team completely, frozen until the expiry of his contract. Some, as it was the case with Polokwane City’s former striker, Thobani Mncwango – whose only crime was confirming the widely reported interest in his services in an interview with Soccer Laduma – are practically chased away from the team. Mncwango was stopped from even taking part at training in order to ‘teach him a lesson’ and the player had to bide his time on the sidelines until his contract expired before he could join Bidvest Wits. Imagine someone who’s been out of active football for over six months, not due to injury but selfish and heartless people who have no respect for others! He’s then expected to compete against players who have been playing regularly and he’s never been the same player since, understandably so. This despicable behaviour by some club owners is destroying players and shouldn’t be allowed to continue.
Robyn Johannes signed a pre-contract with Wits and never kept it a secret, while he was still captaining Cape Town City but that never stopped him from playing, let alone captaining the team. He played until the last game of the season and was afforded the opportunity to say his farewell to the team’s supporters before switching to Braamfontein. I know teams will claim that the players, sometimes, do these deals behind their backs hence the bitterness and unprofessional reaction when it becomes public knowledge that they’d signed elsewhere.
A simple question is: Why should the player suffer the consequences and not the buying club? The player obviously doesn’t sign himself and the PSL Handbook, under Transfers of professional players within South Africa, clearly states that: “A member club wishing to engage the services of a player is obliged to inform his present member club in writing of its interest before commencing any negotiations with that player.” Is that clear enough? Now, who should bear the brunt of the disgruntled present club? What about the player’s representative, without whom no negotiations can even take place? The answer? Because the two teams will need each other along the way, therefore they have to think about the ‘bigger picture’, while the same applies to the representatives. The agent isn’t always going to fight the club because the player in question isn’t their only one and therefore there’s also a relationship to protect, unfortunately, at the expense of the player, sometimes.
That’s why it is vitally important that players stand up for their rights, in unison, because they mostly only have each other.