MFA reform looks to address money laundering, corruption in Malta’s football scene

MFA President Bjorn Vassallo says new structures in how football clubs in Malta operate will help in reducing corruption and money laundering, while raising the sport’s standards

MFA President Bjorn Vassallo
MFA President Bjorn Vassallo

Approved changes to the Malta Football Association’s statute hope to address issues of money laundering and corruption in football, president Bjorn Vassallo said on Tuesday.

The changes were approved in an Extraordinary General Meeting on Monday evening.

Statutory changes are the first step in a three-part reform being carried out in line with an MFA strategy announced earlier this year.  

Elected officials within the Malta Football Association will be subject to an eligibility check and due diligence following the approval of a new statute.

The MFA President and Vice-President’s term will also be limited to a maximum of three years in office, of four years each.

President Bjorn Vassallo said the changes will make the association more dynamic, ensuring that stakeholders are more involved in discussions on the sport.

“We want to promote an administrative style that is based on democracy, justice in sport, investment and accountability,” he said. “The statute upgrading is part of a chain of reforms which includes club licensing and corporate restructuring.”

 A new executive board, which is composed of 24 members, has also been formed. The board will have representatives from the Premier League, Challenge League, National Amateur League, Interest Groups, various representations and Malta FA officers.

Three general assemblies will also be carried out on a yearly basis, replacing the annual general meeting.

In an effort to ensure more separation of powers, any decisions taken by the administrative body will be subject to a review by judicial bodies of the association.

Speaking during the press conference on Tuesday, Vassallo said the MFA wants to strengthen institutional independence, and such reforms will help in moving the association forward in this regard.

New licensing regime

Next in the line for the MFA is a restructuring of its licensing regime, which will see clubs being awarded a license according to their professional status.

The third stage of the reform will be the commercialization of club ownership, meaning clubs at elite level will need to have the majority shareholding owned by a company.

By the end of 2023, clubs competing in the top tier league will need to be a commercial entity. Clubs will be split into two tiers – amateur and elite level.

Such measures will help in reducing money laundering and corruption in the sport, according to the Bjorn Vassallo.

He said the MFA was the first sport association to introduce anti-money laundering procedures in the country, with an advisory board formed to create policies on the issue.

He also said the new structures will help in addressing the issue of club presidents leaving their teams when they decide, with owners obliged to sell the club before exiting the role.

A number of clubs have expressed their reservations on the issues, but the MFA President insisted that for the sport to move forward, such reforms have to be enacted.

“If we cannot improve the administration of clubs, we will not see results on the pitch. Similar structures within UEFA and FIFA have led to success,” he said. “If you don’t have the resources, you go to a lower level, the mentality of everything goes has to stop.”

He said that when similar changes were carried out on countries similar to Malta, the level of the sport increased.

“Cyprus, which has a similar population, with a similar culture started off like us, and now they have clubs which are seeing a yearly turnover of €25 million,” he said.