The raging disputes of unpaid wages to M-League football players and coaches reflect the depths of greed and dishonesty to which the warring parties are prepared to sink.
It is an old problem created by the players, coaches, and state football associations (FAs) and clubs themselves who connive to under declare salaries to the authorities.
Such scheming is glaring in the double contracts signed by players and coaches with their employers.
The practice of double contracts is not new: it has plagued the M-League during the semi-professional era from 1987-1994 when wage caps were imposed by the FA of Malaysia (FAM).
Then, state FAs and clubs hired players with higher salaries than the capped wages.
They then submitted the contract with the capped wage to the FAM and signed a separate one for the additional amount agreed upon.
The wage cap was lifted when football went professional in 1994 due to the free transfer market.
Today, even without salary caps double contracts exist – the first with a lower pay and the other higher.
They collude in order to pay less taxes and make reduced contributions to the Employees Provident Fund and Social Security Organisation.
Sometimes, it is the player and coach who request for the double contract, other times the FAs and clubs hold sway.
The consequences kick in when the aggrieved individuals take their case to FAM, only to learn that the national body recognises the first agreement as the official deal.
That would explain why disgruntled players or coaches are reluctant to lodge a complaint with FAM or the Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia when their wages are not paid or underpaid.
Those who seek the assistance of both the bodies end up getting lesser money based on their first contract which is deemed ‘official’.
The same happens when team managements change midway through a season and recognise the first agreement.
A case in point is that of a coach who suffered a 50% reduction in his wages, based on the first contract submitted to FAM, when a new management took over the team.
He took the matter to FAM’s Appeals Committee after the Status Committee recognised his first contract.
The coach, who also claimed he was not paid for a few months, has the option to seek redress in the Industrial Court if he is unhappy with the decision of the Appeals Committee.
Little wonder then that the M-League is riddled with salary disputes every season.
If everyone continues with underhand tactics, what next for Malaysian football that went professional 25 years ago?
Clearly, professionalism will never be achieved, and the integrity of M-League teams will be compromised.
Irresponsible actions will negate efforts by FAM to encourage teams to develop strong governance and organisational structures, implement stable financial management and increase credibility.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.