Club owner jailed for not paying outstanding salaries: Malaysian player union hails legal win


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  • High Court in Malaysia sent club owner to jail for not paying outstanding salaries to players

  • The Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia (PFAM) expects this precedent will help prevent non-payment

  • "If the owner doesn’t pay, he will remain behind bars," says Malaysian player union CEO Izham Ismail

"Those who believe in good governance will be delighted," said Izham Ismail, the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia, after the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that an owner of two clubs will be imprisoned until he has cancelled all outstanding debts he has with players.

More than 30 players of Kuantan FA and Marcerra United FC had salary claims for the 2018 season amounting to more than six million Ringgit (approximately 1,250,000 USD). They filed their lawsuit in January 2022.

In January this year, two years after the owner was first told to settle his outstanding debts and after admitting he was liable, the High Court handed down a suspended jail sentence of seven days to give the owner time to cancel the outstanding wages. However, when the deadline expired, the owner still had not fulfilled his duties, forcing the players to ask the High Court to carry out the jail sentence.

PFAM 2023 GA
Izham Ismail (centre) with PFAM President Safee Sali and Vice President Razman Roslan
Abdul Ghani Bin Abd Rahman (Player, Kuantan FA)
Kuantan FA player Abdul Ghani Bin Abd Rahman
Mohamad Suhail Rahimi B Abdul Razak
Lawyer Mohamad Suhail Rahimi B Abdul Razak

"This is not ideal, but it is necessary," said Ismail. "Unfortunately, this case shows that football’s legal system does not force people to fulfil their obligations. The owner of these clubs apparently does not care about football decisions.

"When club leaders do not want to pay, there is no way that this can be arranged within the football industry. That’s why we decided to invoke the High Court, as it was the only way to get the players what they are due. We assume that the High Court’s decision will force the owner to take action. And otherwise, he will remain behind bars until justice is done."

Ismail expects that the High Court’s decision will change the behaviour of other club owners. "As a club owner you have a huge responsibility. And we will hold everyone who is failing the players and not taking dispute resolution seriously accountable. We don’t take the issue of non-payment lightly." To Ismail, the case underscores the need for a fairer and more just accountability in Malaysian football.

The Malaysian player union worked closely together with a law firm that supported the legal action in the High Court. According to these lawyers, the players could take other initiatives to get the money they are owed, for example by declaring the owner bankrupt or by confiscating his property.