League leaders refuse to play due to unpaid wages
Thursday 28 February
On Tuesday 26 February, play resumed in Montenegro’s premier league. But the first round after the winter break was marred by the threat of players refusing to play their match due to unpaid wages.
FC Sutjeska Niksic is the current league leader in Montenegro. ‘It is a young and very talented team’, says Zeljko Janovic, president of the Montengrin professional footballers association TUPFPM. ‘It is also a low budget team.’
Apparently a very low budget team.
‘Four days ago the players informed us that they wanted to go on strike, because they had not received any salary since the beginning of the season’, says Janovic. The season began on 11 August 2012, seven months ago…
‘They haven’t been paid for six months’, Janovic continues. ‘They have played all their matches, in preseason and during the regular season. They were promised their salaries. But they still haven’t received anything.’
Initially the players refused to play in Tuesday’s match against FC Grbalj. They were willing to strike until they received their full salaries. The team management and the club president were shocked and tried to resolve the situation, but claimed they would need more time to come up with a solution.
The players’ union lacked the time to organize a strike of all players in the Montenegrin premier league for Tuesday’s round, and so it requested the Montenegrin football federation (FAM) to postpone the match between FC Sutjeska and FC Grbalj.
The FAM, however, turned down this request. ‘The president of FAM, Dejan Savicevic, explained that all clubs had to be treated equally and play at the same time. He added that three points will be deducted for the first time a club refuses to play. If a club refuses to play a second time, it will immediately be relegated to a lower division.’
Janovic discussed the situation with the management of FC Sutjeska, who promised to pay one month’s salary this week. Janovic then appealed to the players to play the match against FC Grbalj. They did and won 1-0.
‘The players agreed to play and will receive one month’s salary. But this is not the solution we are looking for. We will put pressure on the club’s management to pay the players all the wages they are owed. If the club does not pay, we will have to take more comprehensive and radical action.’
For TUPFPM, it was no surprise that the players of FC Sutjeska threatened to strike. Janovic: ‘In the first half of the season we warned on several occasions that something could happen in our league. A lot of players are not receiving their salaries. We know that the situation at most of the clubs in Montenegro is not much better.’
‘We urge the clubs to come up with a solution. If not, we will prepare all our members for solidarity actions.’
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