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Watch: Micallef keen to put Malta FA on stronger foundations

MFA presidency candidate Robert Micallef. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

MFA presidency candidate Robert Micallef has vowed to put Maltese football on stronger foundations with good governance at the heart of his presidency should he be elected as the new governing body’s president this week.

The Santa Lucia FC president is running for the top job at the Malta FA, head-to-head with current president Bjorn Vassallo during the governing body’s General Assembly on Friday.

Speaking with the Times of Malta, Micallef said that in the past weeks, he spoke with various officials from different clubs and said the problems that are being highlighted are common among various divisions.

“During the past weeks, I have had the pleasure to meet with a lot of officials who are very capable in their roles, and who I hope can contribute more towards the association in the near future,” Micallef said.

“The biggest concern among clubs is their financial situation as they are struggling to make ends meet at the end of the season because their revenues are very limited. Others have spoken about the problems they are facing at their nursery, youth participation, as well as infrastructure, with some clubs having no infrastructure where their teams can train.

“I believe that some of the challenges facing the clubs are minimal and can be solved with a bit of attention but there are others who are more of a challenge.

“I believe that my manifesto covers many of these issues and hopefully if I am elected I will do my best to be closer to the clubs and find a solution.”

In the past days, the MFA’s financial struggles have been put to the fore and Micallef said that the latest statements coming out of the MFA for the last 12 months are far from encouraging.

“An association cannot operate in the best way if your finances are not in order,” Micallef said.

“Today, the MFA is facing a dire financial situation and this is not something I am inventing but can be seen in the financial statements published every year. This year, we received the financial documents till the end of 2023, and things do not look rosy as the auditors said that between 2019 and 2023 the governing body had an accumulated loss of over five million euros.

“The MFA president is using the excuse of the COVID-19 pandemic which has certainly hit everyone. But one has to remember that contrary to other businesses, the MFA continued to benefit from its revenues. They received assistance from UEFA and FIFA which amounts to 1.2 million but the clubs only received 13,500 euros. If you calculate that this amount was given to all the clubs the total sum is less than half of what the MFA received.

“The MFA administration will argue that they used the other funds for the costs of swab tests and the medical protocol. But how can one explain that in these challenging times, the association’s salaries have risen by half a million between 2020 and 2021? You can’t say that the MFA was hit by the pandemic and then increase the salaries.

“That certainly doesn’t reflect well on the administration and how things have been run.”

MFA’s finances

Asked how he plans to put the association’s books back in order if elected, Micallef said: “We need to work hard to inject financial energy into the association and empower our members.

“We need to adopt a serious financial plan for managing our resources, where to invest and what our priorities are. There are many ways how we can increase our revenues not only through football-related activities.

“In my programme, I mentioned the foundation of an International Office that will look to attract new investment and also set up collaborations with bigger football associations that can offer us the opportunity to benefit from training camps and youth development programmes.

“We need to be very diligent and if the association manages to record a surplus those funds will go to the member clubs as the MFA is of the clubs.”

During the past weeks, there has been a lot of controversy sparked by several protests lodged by Hibernians, Mosta and Marsaxlokk that highlighted some deficiencies in the MFA operation.

Asked whether he felt these incidents have marred the credibility of Maltese football, Micallef said: “If you speak with football fans after these cases you realise that Maltese football has lost much of its credibility, particularly due to how things have been done.

“There is a lack of accountability in how the regulations are being interpreted and a lack of transparency in how the process is being run. At the end of the day, the final decisions mirror if one is credible or not.

“One has to lead by example and that is why I am proposing to set up new structures where the members will be at the heart of the decisions that are taken, including financial ones such as the remuneration received by the MFA president.

“I also want to set up a committee that will act as a watchdog on the work carried out by the MFA president and the association to ensure there is transparency in how things are run.

“Good governance is crucial if we are to take Maltese football forward.”

New format

A new format for the Premier League has been a major talking point in the past weeks in a bid to attract more fans to the stadia, but Micallef said that there are other priorities to look at if attendance is to increase.

“We’ve heard a lot about the new format proposed by the Malta Premier League, but personally I believe that it’s just a small part of the puzzle,” he said.

“There are many things to look at to make the game more attractive and improving the stadium infrastructure is one key area to make the game more accessible for the people.

“I believe we need to take football into the heart of the community and I am proposing to have matches from the Challenge League and the Amateur League being played in new venues that with a bit of investment will be able to meet the standards to host such games and will attract more fans.

“Added to that we need to work with clubs to inject an entertaining aspect to Maltese football. The supporter that comes to the stadium must be given a good match experience and we need to look at the hospitality aspect and, if need be, even revise ticket prizes.

“We need to launch a study to try and decrease the clubs’ expenses and at the same time attract more fans to increase revenues from gate money.

“I believe that football fans organisations, such as the South End Core, should be at the heart of this and we should create digital platforms where one can voice his concerns which will be dealt with by the association.”

Micallef also spoke about his vision of youth development and said it was crucial to create a new set-up to ensure we maximise the talent of young players.

“We need to start investing in young players from the age of 10 years and make sure we give them the tools to maximise their talent by providing them a professional environment,” he said.

“I believe that we need to not only look at training methods but also the whole set-up. And to this end, my vision is to set up football academies that will also cater for their academic education and will also provide them with specialised football pedagogy by professional physical educators. Nutrition, sports psychology, and sports science will be at the heart of this set-up so that we help our best talent into our future elite players that will help the national teams reach higher objectives.”

Asked what guarantees he is ready to give to those delegates who will vote for him on Friday, Micallef said: “There is no doubt that if I am elected as MFA president the member clubs will be at the heart of the association and I will do my best that they will play a key role in the decisions taken by the body.

“Clubs and member associations will play a key role in the MFA not just when the elections come but throughout the mandate so that together we can elevate Maltese football to new heights.

“A vote for me is a vote in favour of Maltese football and to be part of the Malta FA.”

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