Seven players from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have received six-month bans after taking part in a protest that was organized to complain about not having received four months’ salaries.
“It is an incredible situation. We are talking about seven young players who have not been paid for four months, and then on top of that also get suspended for six months because they dared to complain about the non-payment. It’s unbelievable”, says Pance Kumbev, President of the Footballers Union of Macedonia, SFM.
Wil van Megen, Head of FIFPro’s Legal Department, agrees with Kumbev. “Both parties need to respect their contract. The players did what they had to do, even without being paid for four months. It is unheard of that they get suspended for protesting non-payment.”
“Next to that, I wonder why the FA has suspended the players, because I don’t think the players have breached any of the FA’s rules. By extending the suspension, and knowing that these players have not been paid for at least the past four months, the FA has made it almost impossible for the players to earn a living for the next six months. How does the FA expect that their members – who are playing for their national teams – can survive, pay their rents or buy food?”
The bizarre story unfolds on Wednesday 25 November 2015. As they have not been paid for the previous four months and want to show their anger, all players of Macedonian premier league side FC Metalurg decide to go on strike. They are hoping to force the club directors to pay the debt or present a proper solution. The players show up for training, but don’t practice for 3 days. On the 4th day they resume training.
On Sunday 29 November almost everyone refuses to play the home match against Turnovo, as the club has still not paid anything or presented a solution. Only two experienced players make themselves available, the rest of the team is made up of academy players aged 15 to 19. The players who refuse to play, want to attend the match, but are denied access to the stadium by the club.
With no solution in sight, 15 players turn to the Macedonian FA on 30 November requesting the termination of their contracts due to non-payment of salaries.
On that same day, FC Metalurg decides to terminate the contracts of 5 players, whom they deem to be strike leaders: Stojan Dimoski, Bojan Gjorgievski, Risto Mitrevski, Zoran Danoski and Mihajlo Mitrov.
Club President Aleksandar Panov announces that all other players who took part in the strike will be suspended. That threat becomes reality on 22 December, when Metalurg informs seven players that they have receive a 6-month suspension: Filip Ristovski, Davor Taleski, Viktor Angelov, Stefan Jevtoski, Dejan Tanturovski, Darko Ilievski and Naumce Bakraceski.
In the meantime, the FA approves the players’ request to have their contracts terminated.
Six month ban
However, a couple of weeks later, the FA recognizes the 6-month ban put upon the seven aforementioned players by Metalurg, which means that none of these players are allowed to play any matches in Macedonia. There are exceptions: the players can play for the national teams (all seven made appearances for national youth teams and Viktor Angelov even played for the senior team), and their ban will be temporarily suspended if they join a foreign club. But if they return to Macedonia, they will have to serve the remainder of that ban.
Some players appeal the decision, but their appeals are rejected. Not all players lodge an appeal, as they cannot bear the costs ...
The Footballers Union of Macedonia (SFM) is currently trying to help these players claim their arrear wages, and overturn the suspension. SFM has informed FIFPro, which will offer legal support to help the union and the players.
“It is a ridiculous situation”, says union President Kumbev. “First the football association respects the rights of the players to have the contract terminated due to unpaid salaries, but then it takes away the right of the player to perform his profession by upholding the 6 month suspension.”
Five players have moved on to a new club:
| Naumce Bakraceski
|(Mladost Carev Dvor, FYR Macedonia)
(Bregalnica Stip, FYR Macedonia)
(FK Borac Banja Luka, Bosnia)
(HNS Orasje, Croatia)
More financial problems at Metalurg
Mincho Jordanov, the FK Metalurg chairman, also owns local handball club RK Metalurg (since 2005/2006 the team won 6 championships and 5 cups). However, the handball team has also experienced financial struggles, which resulted in 16 players leaving the club during last season, including foreign star players and Macedonian national team players.
- Published: 19 February 2016