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Premier League hopefuls face anxious wait ahead of Malta FA decision

Following last week’s announcement made by the Malta FA Executive Committee which ended the season for all divisions bar the Premier League due to the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs from the First Division have been forced to wait for a final verdict regarding the outcome of the 2019-20 season.

With a UEFA deadline of May 25 looming over the association, MFA president Bjorn Vassallo wrote to local health authorities last week regarding the issue of completion for the Premier League but sources confirmed this did not include the other tiers of Maltese football.

While it is natural the preference for league outcome of the top and bottom part of the league table would be on opposite sides, some would argue it should not be left in the hands of the clubs to decide.

Żejtun Corinthians president Joe Gauci laments the possibility of it being decided by the clubs as “everyone will act according to their agenda”.

He expressed his concern about Tarxien Rainbows already being mathematically relegated from the Premier League but at the same time, he admitted that it could end up like other countries which have already voided the entirety of their football leagues.

“We would expect to get promoted. We’ve played against all the good teams already, except Lija, and we’ve not dropped a point and are first in the league,” Gauci told the Sunday Times of Malta.

“But this is something the EXCO should decide. We know it’s going to be a struggle but it’s not our fault (the league had to stop).”

Head of the First Division Standing Committee, and Lija Athletic president, Peter Fenech had similar concerns despite admitting the committee has little say in terms of a decision.

He explained that the decision taken by the MFA last week was in line with the committee’s recommendations.

“The First Division, Gozo (GFA), Youth FA and Premier League all declared their position to stop the leagues,” Dr Fenech explained.

“Obviously the Premier League has the issue of sending clubs to European competition if the league stops so that’s an isolated case. But a decision needs to be taken.

“I don’t think you can annul the three lower leagues without the top one as well, so I believe there has to be a standard.”

While this uncertainty is already a headache for football administrators, it may be slowing the process of thinking ahead for next season.

Most Division One clubs have already reached an agreement with their players regarding wages, some even announcing it on their socials. While confirming he had settled this issue with his players, Dr Fenech explained the standing committee had proposed that clubs be able to pay up within six months from when they are allowed to start raising funds again.

“Most (payments) come from fundraising even if you have sponsors,” he explained.

Gauci echoed this, also affirming Żejtun’s agreement to pay their players. However, he also mentioned there are other issues such as other debt and insurances which are usually paid off much easier.

Were the MFA to decide to promote the leaders, it would mean the club committee would have to find a way to prepare financially.

Club sponsors

Gauci admitted that “we have better options for sponsors (in the Premier League) but also more expenses”.

“Before we know if we’re going to be in the Premier League or not, we can’t do anything,” he explained.

“Usually I know what I’ve got for the club from May to September and I have enough time to find sponsors but as it is, it’s useless doing this now.

“Everything is uncertain and we must work slowly because if promotion happens, I don’t want us to make a fool of ourselves.

“It’s crucial for us that we know what’s going to happen so that we can take a decision.”

The Malta Football Players Association has been particularly active during these times, trying to safeguard its players’ rights but with many contracts reaching their respective end and most clubs sticking to their agreements, this might be a problem solved.

Dr Fenech said he had received good feedback regarding this and was pleased with the way players were being understanding of their clubs.

“(The players) have been very supportive of their club because they realise we are all in the same position. Most clubs have reached agreement because they found cooperation from their players,” Dr Fenech said.

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