The Sunday Mail
PREMIER Soccer League (PSL) clubs remain in a quandary over how to handle player contracts, some of which expired on June 30, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus-induced suspension of the 2020 season.
The 2020 Castle Lager championship was due to start in March, but the biggest club competition in local football has been postponed owing to Covid-19, which has ravaged the globe, resulting in a number of sporting activities being shelved.
While there are a number of PSL players whose contracts expired on June 30, there is now a strong possibility more agreements might lapse in December without the players kicking a ball, as chances of playing football this year continue to grow slimmer by each passing day.
Yet the clubs have been paying the players full salaries, with no action-related income since January.
Although the world football mother body, FIFA, announced guidelines on how to handle player contracts during the coronavirus crisis, the main catch is that these guidelines do not suit the local situation.
While FIFA seemed to address contractual issues for players mainly in those leagues that run between August and May, the Zimbabwean top-flight league is traditionally a March-November campaign.
“With the current suspension of play in most countries, it is now obvious that the current season will not end when people thought it would.
“Therefore, it is proposed that contracts be extended until such time that the season does actually end.
“A similar principle applies to contracts due to begin when the new season starts, meaning their enforcement is delayed until the next season actually does start,” FIFA said in a statement when outlining their guidelines.
The world body indicated that they would be flexible and allow the relevant transfer windows to be moved so that they fall between the end of the old season and the start of the new season.
Although FIFA released these guidelines three months ago, ZIFA are yet to give direction, posing some serious challenges to some local clubs that are grappling with expired contracts.
Highlanders and Chicken Inn are some of the top teams affected.
PSL have been engaging both the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) and the World Leagues Forum to get clarity on the way forward.
“We are awaiting direction from ZIFA, but at the moment we are engaging FUZ and the World Leagues Forum.
“The main issue is that the FIFA guidelines have to be perfected to suit the Zimbabwe situation. We will inform the clubs on the way forward once we get enough details,” PSL communications manager Kudzai Bare said yesterday.
ZIFA communications and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela said the football association will come up with a position “in due course”.
“The issue is still under discussion. I can confirm that there have been some talks between ZIFA and its affiliates.
“Most of the contracts expired with no action on the ground because of Covid-19, so we need to come up with a position that solves the issue,” Gwesela said.
FUZ secretary, Thomas Sweswe, is hoping clubs and players will reach an amicable solution.
“In football, everything works with regulations, and FIFA made a swift move in coming up with Covid-19 regulations to help ease the employment relationship between employers and employees.
“As such, we urge clubs to visit those regulations and try and have dialogue with a possibility of extending the contracts with the concerned players whose contracts are coming to an end,” said Sweswe.
“Our role as FUZ has been to advise our members, giving them information on the new regulations and how to approach the negotiations.
“Taking into consideration also the role the clubs have been playing in trying to make sure that they (players) are taken care of.
“There are, however, some players who haven’t been taken good care of, so it’s a case-by-case basis. Some players are happy and some disgruntled as well.
“However, we really applaud clubs who have been honouring contractual obligations and also cushioning the players in this hyper-inflationary economy.
“Players signed contracts in January but those salaries they agreed were eroded by the economic situation and most players have been struggling.
“Salaries are also complemented by winning bonuses and allowances, so as long as there is no football action, then players are at a major loss physically, financially and emotionally as well,” Sweswe said.