Malta FA to stop revolving doors for football club presidents

The Malta Football Association will be introducing new regulations aimed at eliminating ‘revolving doors’ syndrome of club presidents

The issue of Maltese football clubs being promised large sponsorship deals which never materialise was brought to light by the fate of Sliema Wanderers FC, promised €25 million over five years by an unknown Tunisian company, Catco
The issue of Maltese football clubs being promised large sponsorship deals which never materialise was brought to light by the fate of Sliema Wanderers FC, promised €25 million over five years by an unknown Tunisian company, Catco

The Malta Football Association will be introducing new regulation aimed at eliminating ‘revolving doors’ syndrome of club presidents who drift from one club to the other.

The issue of Maltese football clubs being promised large sponsorship deals which never materialise was brought to light by the fate of Sliema Wanderers FC, promised €25 million over five years by an unknown Tunisian company, Catco.

The company was roped in by former footballer Jeffrey Farrugia, known as ‘il-Vinċ’, soon after he became president of the football club last August.

Multiple sources within the club confirmed the sponsorship figure floated by Farrugia and Catco Group chairman Fisal Abdullah Alokla was in the region of €25 million. The sponsorship would have possibly been one of the highest ever for a Maltese football club.

But none of the promised monies made it to the club and players’ wages remained unpaid. The situation was made worse after Farrugia went on a signing spree in the summer to boost the club’s fortunes on the pitch.

Earlier this week, the MFA launched its new strategic plan aimed at improving the technical and infrastructural development of football in the country.

MFA Vice-President Matthew Paris said the association wants to raise the bar in due diligence and scrutiny.

Currently, football clubs are obliged to register with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations (VO). This brings a certain level of scrutiny into the clubs. While clubs are not obliged to submit their accounts with the MFA, unless applying for a European competitions license, they have to submit them with the VO commissioner.

“The MFA only has sports sanctions as penalties, while the VO commissioner has more tools at his disposal due to executive powers,” Paris said.

Under new regulations, clubs playing at Premier League level must be registered with the Malta Business Registry as a single member club. The investor taking over the club must own the majority shareholding of the club.

A member’s foundation can own shares within the club, but the investor must have the majority shareholding.

Paris said that any investor or club owner looking to leave the club, must find a suitable replacement, eliminating instances where presidents enter the scene, and leave when things turn ugly.

Such a measure will also motivate owners to invest in the long-term.

“If you’re an owner financing a club, it would make more sense to invest in the club’s long-term such as the nursery and youth set up. It will also aid in commercialisation,” he said.

It will also create a more level playing among clubs, Paris said.

“While clubs will have new responsibilities, it creates a system where everyone is more at par with each other,” he said.

The new measure will only apply at Premier League level, and newly promoted clubs will have one year to get in line with regulation. It will also help in not putting promoted clubs through the added bureaucracy for nothing.

Clubs in lower league levels can retain the previous format.

Paris admitted that while the measures will help in reducing illicit activities due to better oversight, issues like money laundering will never be eradicated completely.

“I believe that the majority of people involved in club football have good intentions and love for the game. But as long as money laundering exists in society, it can never be eradicated completely from football, because football is a game found within the community,” he said.

The reaction from club presidents has been positive, according to Paris.

“Currently, it is difficult to attract investors to the clubs, because there is no investment. The new regulation makes more financial sense,” he said.

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