Lack of professionalism in both the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) and the clubs, combined with the dysfunction in the Football Players' Welfare Association (FPWA) has seemingly paved the way to the unpleasant decision of big pay cuts of footballers in the upcoming season, expected to start in December.
After a series of meetings with the clubs and the players, the BFF professional football league committee has decided to reduce footballers' payments by a whopping 75 percent of their new contracts, which will be similar to last season, citing the clubs' financial constraint due to the coronavirus pandemic. The demand from the players' side was to be paid 50 percent of the new contracts after clearing 100 percent of last season's contract money. The clubs agreed to pay last season's dues in full.
There had initially been talk among players that they were ready to sacrifice 30 to 35 percent payment for last season, which came to an end at the halfway stage due to the pandemic. Footballers of overseas leagues made a similar concession to minimise clubs' losses following cancellation of the season.
As per FIFA rules, if a season is declared over, the players' contracts would also expire and they would be free to choose new destinations. And FIFA, in its special guidelines following the Covid-19 outbreak, has emphasised on mutual negotiation between clubs and players to reach a decision regarding contracts.
The Bangladeshi clubs also settled their agreements with foreign players, with BFF mediating if needed, but unfortunately the clubs and the federation has apparently taken a different approach with local players. They are now not free to sign for any new clubs unless there is mutual understanding among the clubs, while they can take only 25 percent of their contracts' payments. This translates to huge savings for the clubs when forming squads, but the players themselves will ultimately be deprived.
The majority of footballers have to play with token payments for next season because in the last season, only three to four clubs offered lucrative amounts to top players, but the rest played with low salaries.
Last season, eight clubs out of 13 in the Bangladesh Premier League spent between Tk 50,000 and Tk 20 lakh for each players and there were a lot of players who received between Tk 1 lakh and Tk 5 lakh each. Under the new stipulations those players would earn between Tk 25,000 and Tk 1.25 lakh in the new season.
"It has happened due to lack of professionalism in the BFF and the clubs because they can't put a bar on the players in line with the FIFA guidelines. The players also know that they won't get their expected money from the clubs due to the new situation. Let the players be free to deal with their own contracts with clubs like the foreign players did," said a former footballer, who preferred not to be named.
Bangladesh captain Jamal Bhuiyan is also upset by the decision and hopes it will to be revised in the near future.
"To be honest, I think that the number (25 percent) is too low. I hope it is not the final decision. I hope we can hear most of the players' opinions about it," Jamal told The Daily Star. "Of course, the clubs want to pay less money to local players so that they [the clubs] can save some money. But overall, I don't think it is good because football in Bangladesh needs to be talked about and promoted in a positive way so cutting so much of salaries is not a positive thing."
He also questioned whether foreign players got reduced payments or full payment as per their contracts.
"We are not satisfied with this decision of the league committee because all of us players hoped for a good solution from the League Committee Chairman Abdus Salam Murshedy bhai and the clubs' managements. We are not waiting for the new committee of the BFF and hope they will deliver a good decision after talking to the clubs," said former captain and current midfielder Mamunul Islam.
Former footballer Iqbal Hossain, president of Football Players' Welfare Association and incumbent BFF member, however denied their inactivity when looking after the footballers' interests.
"The association has always been with the players. As we all have been in the BFF election process, we can't discuss the matter with the clubs and the federation. We hope to sit with the federation after the elections and give them an ultimatum to keep the players' interests intact," said Iqbal.