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Late payments in football plague lower divisions

News   •   Feb 28, 2019 13:45 +08

A screenshot of Ebbsfleet United's website

Football clubs in European leagues are known for receiving hefty amounts of cash in exchange for the rights to broadcast their matches on TV, and this allows them to pay millions in transfer fees and attract players with extravagant salaries, with some ridiculous clauses to boot.

But for footballers playing in the lower tiers or in nations that are ranked lower than those in Europe, where clubs or associations operate in a less profitable environment, cash flow problems mean late payments.

In South Africa, the women’s national team players had to wait more than a month to receive more than ZAR 2 million (about US$150,000) in bonuses promised by the South African Football Association (Safa) for their performance at the Africa Women Cup of Nations in early December.

The team came in second, which meant each member of the squad was to be paid about ZAR 112,000, but most were still due about ZAR 75,000. Although the association has since paid up, the senior players in the squad were not happy.

“There was a large amount of unhappiness due to the late payment,” striker Jermaine Seoposenwe confirmed. “We felt disrespected as players, as there was no communication. As players, we don’t want to go into games of this magnitude with unhappiness.”

In England, cash flow problems plague Ebbsfleet, a football club that competes in the National League, the fifth tier of English football. The first team squad of the club recently released a statement about the club's financial problems, revealing they have only been paid on time once in the last year.

The statement reveals that they have again not received their wages on time in January. The players said they did not receive their pension payments and they had played matches earlier in the current season without the right medical insurance in place, and alleged that management had withheld the information from them.

The players' statement said: "This would have been catastrophic for any players that would have been unfortunate enough to suffer a serious injury, this could have resulted in the end of a player's career.

Ebbsfleet has been placing fifth or sixth in the league over the past few years. But with the recent financial problems of the club which started in early 2018, it has implemented budget cuts, let staff members go, and loaned out players to raise funds.

They are 10th in the table as of the time of writing.

Bolton Wanderers, perhaps a more popular name due to the club having played in the English Premier League from 2001 to 2012, is also late in paying salaries to its players, to the point where its players are actively seeking employment in other clubs.

The club, which competes in the second tier of English football, has been hit by two winding-up petitions, one from the agency Stellar and one from HM Revenue and Customs.

Bolton's chairman Ken Anderson said he personally funded the salaries of the players in November, against claims that their salaries were late in that month.

Anderson, who is the majority shareholder of the club, has said he is doing his best to find new owners for the club.

Allegations of late payment do not seem to affect players in the larger leagues, but they are not immune to disagreements over payments and bonuses.

Brazilian football superstar Neymar and his former Spanish club Barcelona are set to go to court with both parties suing each other over the lack of payment of a bonus to the player.

Neymar claims he is due a 'loyalty bonus' of €26 million on 31 July 2017, just four days before he transferred to French football club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). But Barcelona claims he does not fulfill the requirements for the bonus, and does not deserve it.

The Spanish club claims Neymar did not fulfill the three conditions to be eligible for the loyalty bonus: that Neymar should not negotiate with another club before 31 July, which in light of Neymar's talks with PSG meant he was in breach of the term of the agreement.

Another condition was that Neymar had to publicly express his decision to fulfill his contract, which he did not do. Finally, the payment was to be made on 1 September to ensure he did not go to another club.

It was reported that Neymar's father and agent held up the €222m transfer of Neymar to PSG in order to trigger a loyalty payment that would be owed after 31 July, as part of the new contract the player signed with Barcelona in October 2016.

Barcelona subsequently sued Neymar for breach of contract, saying that they are owed money that Neymar received as part of a renewal bonus when he signed a new contract in 2016, in addition to €8.5m in damages plus interest.

The amount of the renewal bonus the club is seeking was not immediately made public.

It can be argued that modern football players are more than just employees as they can be considered income-generating assets for their clubs. A superstar such as Cristiano Ronaldo can help a club sell jerseys. When he moved to Italy's Juventus from Spain last year, the Italian club sold US$60 million of Ronaldo jerseys within 24 hours. Neymar might be a football player and a human being, but as an economic entity his ability to earn money from football is owned by several investors and funds. Top football players think of themselves like companies when they make new deals with clubs.

On the other end of the spectrum, players in lower league teams have to be careful about the clubs they join lest they face off-pitch problems such as late payments that might adversely impact their performances in their short careers.

What do you think of late payments in the football industry? Comment below, or on our Facebook page.

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