The union supported 37 players (including 22 current players and 15 players who left the club in the previous two years) who were owed salary arrears by NK Celik Zenica. The club lost its license in June and was demoted from the first to the fifth league after it had been left in financial difficulties by its runaway owner. The players also wanted to have their contracts terminated, as some of them were signed until the summer of 2022.
“Everyone thought the club would not survive,” said Aldin Djidić, former player of NK Celik Zenica and founder of SPFBiH. “But after many talks, meetings, public campaigns and nights without sleep we got our desired outcome.”
The union managed to let the municipality take over the club and pay most of the debts to the players. All 37 players agreed to a financial arrangement and should receive their money this month. Their contractual status is solved too, meaning they are free to join other clubs.
To realize all of the above, the union used a social media campaign to convince the municipality to help the club, had players sent letters to the mayor explaining their insecure status and pushed fans to organize a petition urging the municipality to act.
“Our campaign wasn’t always pretty,” Djidic said. “But as a union we cannot always be friendly.”
The union threatened to legally block a league match of Celik Zenica, as 13 players had not received their salary arrears even though they had won their case with the national dispute resolution chamber (NDRC). “The money had to be paid before September 17th, otherwise the club couldn’t play,” Djidic said.
All these activities contributed to achieving the result the players and union were looking for. “The players are satisfied with the agreement, nothing was unilaterally forced upon them,” Djidic said.
The player union had various talks with the football federation and managed to alter some disciplinary regulations, that should help improve the conditions for all professional footballers in Bosnia and Hercegovina:
- NDRC cases now must be adjudicated within 38 days
- Clubs, including those at a lower league level, have to fulfil their duties
- Clubs risk a fine if they do not execute NDRC decisions.
“This case strengthened our union,” Djidic said. “Our membership increased with 39 players, even though we haven’t been able to visit clubs due to Covid-19 measures.”
“The public image of our union has improved too. Celik Zenica is a big club, some national team players started their career there, including myself, and the club’s stadium is used by the national team.”