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The current situation with Neuchâtel Xamax is no longer acceptable, says Swiss Association of Football Players (SAFP) President Lucien Valloni. The players' wages for November and December 2011 have still not been paid, and four players appear to have been sacked for no plausible reason.

 

Valloni says, ‘These are states of affairs that the Professional Players Association can no longer accept. The way the players are treated is a sign of a lack of respect.'

 

Overdue wages and social security contributions. Debts of around six millions Swiss francs, plus further outstanding amounts like the transfer fee due to Spanish club Almeria for the Nigerian goal-getter Kalu Uche and the 200,000-franc fee for the loan of the striker Haris Seferovic from Fiorentina, Italy. After a fine of 20,000 francs, the Swiss Football League resorted to harder measures and stripped a total of eight points from Xamax in the league table. Yet Xamax owner Bulat Tschagajew carries on unmoved, dismissing four players in Neuenburg on Wednesday.

 

‘For me, these are typical acts of revenge’, Lucien Valloni told the Swiss online news portal 20 Minuten Online. The president of the SAFP, the professional players association, believes that the planned strike at the training camp because of unpaid wages may have been the reason behind the leaves of absence or lay-offs. ‘It must however be clarified first of all, whether the players have actually been fired or simply given leave of absence.’ It's clear, says the lawyer, that the way professionals are being treated in Neuenburg is a sign of a lack of respect, and something has to be done about it.

 

‘The players have now been waiting for their wages for two months, and they have a right to withdraw or suspend their labour. Like other employees, the player provides his work in advance, and in return he is paid at the end of that month. If payment is not made, however, he can suspend his labour without having to make up for it later. For the professionals, that means stopping training and boycotting games.’

 

In the event of an impending insolvency, i.e. if the club can't pay its liabilities, the players can demand the security of their future wages, which the players' union in the name of all players has repeatedly done - and accompanied by the threat that, in the event that the security is not provided, the players have a right to terminate their contracts of employment. But up to now, the club has provided no security of any kind. Whether the players will now terminate their employment contracts for this reason remains to be seen.

 

‘It goes without saying that we have the legal option to do more. We could for example prosecute for the wages. That could however mean us, as the players' representatives, driving Xamax into bankruptcy. That would make us and the players the grave-diggers of our own jobs, and that is not in the interests of the association.’

 

Especially since the survival of the super-league teams means a great deal to the SAFP, as the legal representatives of the players, for these can best advertise their skills to future employers by playing. And the Swiss Football League must undoubtedly wish for the championships to be played completely with ten teams.

 

‘That's why the SAFP has already been striving for some considerable time for the league to impose a bank guarantee of the players' wages for at least one year as a criterion in its licensing system’, says Valloni. For the present case this would come too late, but it would be a way of avoiding a second ‘Xamax case’ in the future.

 

The optimal solution for the association would be to set up a fund that could come to the assistance of clubs in similarly precarious situations. ‘The likelihood of such things happening every season is low. The last case (Servette) was indeed six years ago already. But it would mean that the sport was not spoilt simply because a club became insolvent.’

 

A speedy solution is required for the Xamax players. Valloni still can't say what will happen next, especially since the players' association, in contrast to the SFL, has no right to inspect the books of the super-leage clubs and therefore doesn't know the actual financial situation, so any prediction proves to be extremely difficult. On top of that, he says, there is no real contact person and the association can't reach Bulat Tschagajew himself. The Chetchen owner simply lets it be known regularly that everything ‘will turn out well’.

 

No written statement about the outstanding wages has yet been received. It's also possible, however, that Tschagajew, or Xamax (in the legal sense, the club and not Tschagajew is liable to the players), will not send the January wages either. In that case, with three months' wages unpaid, the players would be entitled in accordance with the case law of the FIFA dispute resolution chamber to terminate their contracts of employment.