WHILE euphoria has gripped domestic football enthusiasts, players and other stakeholders as the Premier Soccer League (PSL) action returns this weekend after more than a year due to COVID-19-induced lockdowns, there is confusion over player contracts.
The confusion arises from lack of clarity by football leaders with respect to players who signed contracts in 2020 when there was no football taking place after the government suspended mass gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Several players saw their one-year contracts lapse without kicking the ball for their respective clubs. Most of the players went on to sign new contracts with other clubs, a move that has created controversy over compensation issues with their former clubs demanding payment for taking care of the players despite them not kicking a ball during that period.
Zifa has directed that there should be a roll-over of contracts for those players whose contracts lapsed last year. The football mother body argued that this was in line with Fifa guidelines.
PSL also resolved at its AGM last month to roll over contracts. Despite agreeing to roll over contracts, the league management has also advised clubs which have signed the players concerned to go ahead and register them ahead of the start of the games pending the resolution of the questions around ownership and compensation.
That resolution has, however, bred more confusion. For example, who should compensate the clubs that took care of the players in question? Is it Zifa or the club that has taken the player on board? Whoever is going to pay compensation, how much is supposed to be paid as compensation? Is the club supposed to pay compensation equivalent to the signing on fee or the salary the player was earning at his previous club. All these questions were not addressed at the PSL indaba last month. It is, therefore, not surprising that the same questions continue to emerge and as it stands there is no clarity on the way forward especially considering that football is resuming at the weekend.
The resolution to roll over the contracts is also being hotly contested by the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ). Labour expert Ndumiso Sibanda also argues against contract roll-over. Citing a Supreme Court case of Kundai Magodora and others vs Care International (SC 191/13, he argues that a contract of employment is governed by the labour law and that players signed fixed-term contracts with a starting date and ending date. He contends that the principle is that once two parties entered into a contract, no one can alter that contract other than the two parties.
Caps United, Dynamos, Harare City, Highlanders are among several clubs that signed players in preparation for the 2020 season before football action was halted by the COVID-19 outbreak, and are now demanding compensation for players they took care of during that long break.
Some clubs like Highlanders are not demanding compensation, which again raises questions on what exactly was agreed at the PSL indaba concerning the issue of player contracts.
If this matter is not settled as a matter of urgency, it is likely to tarnish the image of not only PSL, but the whole game of football..