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FIFPro, the world players union, is advising professional footballers not to sign contracts with clubs in Serbia during this month’s transfer window because of worsening working conditions in the Eastern European country.

The recently-published FIFPro 2016 Global Employment Report found that 68% of players in the Eastern European country do not receive their salary on time and 89% who were traded to their current club for a fee were pressured into the transfer.

Now, in an unprecedented move, the Serbian Football Association has dismissed key arbitrators from a panel which rules on disputes between clubs and players, giving footballers even less chance of receiving fair treatment.

Under FIFA regulations, the panel known as the National Dispute Resolution Chamber should be made up equally of arbitrators appointed by clubs and players.

The Serbian FA, in an unexpected and unilateral decision by its “urgency committee”, has dismissed the arbitrators chosen by the Serbian players union and appointed officials with links to the biggest clubs, Red Star and Partizan Belgrade, as the chamber’s chairman and vice-chairman.

The chairman and vice-chairman typically have the casting vote in disputes.

The Serbian FA has also increased the fees players must pay to start a procedure against clubs and ordered all cases opened under the previous dispute resolution chamber to start again under the new regime.

“This is a flagrant violation of the fundamental rights of the professional football players in Serbia who are now effectively playing in a lawless environment,” FIFPro General Secretary Theo van Seggelen said.

“We call upon the Serbian Football Association to immediately reverse its decision.

“Until this situation is resolved we strongly advise players not to go and play football in Serbia.”

The mid-season transfer window in Serbia opens on January 23rd and runs until February 17th.

The Serbian players union, Nezavisnost, has overseen an incredible 250 cases of players going to arbitration in the last two years in a league with around 500 players.

“When you sign a contract with a club in Serbia you have a 50% chance of ending up in court,” Mirko Poledica, the union’s president, said.

“It is therefore absolutely fundamental that the chamber is an independent and impartial arbitration body.”

The previous arbitration system, before the Serbian FA’s unilateral changes, was working effectively, Poledica added.

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