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Division One teams willing to continue season if aided financially

With uncertainty already crawling into what football clubs will be doing in the near future, the First Division Standing Committee has signed off on a resolution document, specifying what they feel their situation is at present, in the light of the unprecedented crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Spokesman Dr Peter Fenech told the Times of Malta that clubs have agreed that due to lack of income, the league should not be continued. However, if aided financially by football governing bodies, they would be willing to continue.

“In order for the league to continue, you need to play in July, or earliest June. That would entail that clubs are going to have to call upon players to train and play which means two months of pay while we have no income, no fundraising – no way to pay them,” Dr Fenech argued.

“The help we are asking for is more to cover other essential expenses, most of which are still pending. But if they help us, we are ready to play on.”

Asked about the final decision to be taken regarding the outcome of the season, the Lija Athletic president admitted it was not in the Standing Committee’s power to discuss and that until now, they have not been asked by the MFA to give their say.

“This is a matter of the MFA,” he said. “From what I can understand, even they are waiting for guidelines from UEFA”.

While the clubs might not have a say in what lies ahead, it is natural that while some might want the season to continue, others would prefer it void.

In the case of leaders Żejtun Corinthians, who have been fighting for their first promotion to the Premier League, the concern is greater than finances.

Club secretary Matthew Ferriggi told the Times of Malta that their investment in the season has been immense, and that they would prefer if the league is completed.

“As committee members, we know finances are a problem, but we want our dream (promotion) to become reality because this is what we’ve been waiting for the most,” Ferriggi admitted.

“We’ve invested a lot of money (in the season). We have around €20,000 a month in wages alone so it was a big slap in the face for us because we have always paid our dues to our players and staff.”

Dr Fenech’s club, Lija Athletic, who were the Corinthians’ biggest rivals so far this season, face a similar issue.

Echoing the words of his club president, secretary Samuel Cutajar made it clear that the club’s position is one of continuation.

“Seventy per cent of the league has already been played and many teams already know their faith. We’ll never be in favour of it being annulled,” Cutajar said.

“Realistically, it can’t be continued any time soon. Some of the foreign players have returned home, many wages can’t be paid as yet and some players aren’t fit but considering everything, we think the most plausible option is holding play-offs to at least have promotion and relegation.”

Similarly, third-placed team Qrendi, in play-off contention as the standings show, lamented the sticky situation where it remains unclear how long the issue will push on.

Qrendi president Karmenu Farrugia echoed the Standing Committee’s cries explaining that the “financial problems will affect us mostly through our sponsors”.

“The issue is a great weight on our shoulders and I’m sure it’s going to be difficult even going into the next season because we have to face our sponsors, asking for money to someone whose business was at a standstill,” Farrugia said.

Despite all the commotion, all top-three clubs have disclosed that they have found cooperation from their respective players and technical staff and have continued to train in their homes under the coaches’ instructions.

In doing so, the clubs said that the fitness of their players will be of paramount importance as they aim to stay on track in case of eventuality that the league continues.

The resolution document also delves into the proceedings of next season, proposing a shorter season to minimise cost for clubs.

“If the calendar is planned well, it could mean that the season could take seven months instead of nine and there’s going to be a need for it,” Dr Fenech expressed.

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