Football’s cash flow nightmare: 79% of Maltese players paid late

41% of footballers in Malta earn between €940 and €1,900 a month but almost eight out of every 10 are not paid in time, 16% approached for match fixing

79% of footballers in Malta reported late payments in the last two seasons.
79% of footballers in Malta reported late payments in the last two seasons.

The popular perception of professional footballers the world over is largely influenced by the image of players with a penchant for model girlfriends, flashy cars and opulent houses.

But not every player leads the lifestyle of Cristiano Ronaldo or Mario Balotelli. While superstar players attract the highest exposure, they also represent the smallest segment within the professional game. 

A report by FIFPro, the world players’ union, shows that the reality for many players around the globe is very different. 

The report, which surveyed 14,000 current players in 54 countries and 87 leagues in Europe, the Americas and Africa, shows that an astonishing 79% of footballers plying their trade in Malta reported late payment within the last two seasons.

This is double the number of respondents in the rest of the world, with 41% of players experiencing late payments on a global level (35% in Europe). 

Speaking to MaltaToday, the Malta Football Players Association (MFPA) secretary-general, Carlo Mamo said that “a full-time professional player in Malta has only one remedy in case of non-payment, i.e. to wait for three months. If the player is still not paid after three months, he has then to give 15 days’ notice to the club to pay the salaries due, write to the MFA Complaints Board and then eventually he will be given a release from any contractual obligations. A part-time professional player, however, is not even given this remedy and is left completely unprotected under Malta’s Football Regulations.”

Another shocking finding in the 2016 FIFPro Global Employment Report is that in Malta more than 40% of players reported having been transferred against their interest. 

“This is mainly due to the transfer fee at the end of a contract that only exists in Malta. Unfortunately clubs can still ask for a transfer compensation for out-of-contract players, more than 20 years after the Bosman ruling. Most of the time this puts the player in a position not to have any choice but to join a club which is ready to pay the said fee or somehow agrees to the terms set by his club,” Mamo said. 

The highest paid in international football
The highest paid in international football

He added that there is a wide public perception that professional footballers lead a privileged life making huge amounts of money. 

However, Mamo said this is “a mere perception, which can be largely attributed to the public image of the few professional footballers who have made it to the top leagues.”

Footballers in Malta fall in the second or third tiers of the global football market, where at best players enjoy moderate but decent employment conditions and at worst are under constant pressure to extend their careers in professional football and face precarious employment conditions, including a large degree of personal and contractual abuse. 

“This study shows that only 2% of football players are in fact in the top tier, with the remainder of professional players facing modest pay, remarkably short careers, and huge uncertainties due to late payment and short contracts,” Mamo said. 

How much do players in Malta earn?

The modern game is no longer about goals, cups and tears.

But it has become a spectacle and multi-million industry which attracts a worldwide audience in the millions. 

As any other industry it is driven by supply and demand, which allows the most talented players to maximise their rewards, while the majority of players compete for a limited number of jobs. This makes their market position weak and their employment conditions often precarious.

This month, Brazil international Oscar become the highest-paid player in the world on approximately €457,000 a week following his move to China. 

But in Malta, it will take the highest paid players 10 years to earn what Oscar earns in a week. Mamo said that the majority of players surveyed in Malta play in the Premier League and according to the survey 13% earn between  €280 and €560, 26% between €561 and €940, 41% between €941 and €1,877 and 14% earn between €1,878 and €3,755. 

16% approached for match fixing

Another outstanding finding from the FIFPro report is that 16% of players in Malta have been approached for match fixing, four times higher than the global rate. 

Match-fixing has long been the Achilles heel of the local game and reacting to the report, the Malta Football Association’s integrity officer, Franz Tabone alleged that the problem is more widespread than the global players’ union report. Moreover, the report shows that 18% of respondents in Malta said they were aware of match-fixing in the league.

Asked what are the greatest challenges for players in Malta, Mamo cited late payments, match fixing and the fact that 49% of respondents said they were unsatisfied with medical support provided by clubs and the MFA. 

He also mentioned the lack of free movement at the end of their contract and “no access to national courts as otherwise the player is suspended from any football activity are also another two important issues that are currently on the agenda of the social dialogue meetings being held between local stakeholders.”

Hopefully a number of these issues will be seriously addressed in the coming months. This report provides tangible data showing the true picture. These results should be used to guide policies and implement effective measures. Players should have a working environment whereby the basic rights of employment are fulfilled.