ZIFA clears air on contract disputes

By Trevor Makonyonga

The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) has clarified its position on expired player contracts whose guidelines are not ‘legally binding’.

This comes after Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) raised concerns to the national football body over Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs that are withholding clearances for players with expired contracts.

ZIFA dismissed claims allegedly made by other clubs that players have to compensate services rendered during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement, ZIFA communications manager Xolisani Gwesela said, “We have been informed that some PSL clubs are allegedly demanding compensation for services not rendered during the covid-19 induced lockdown when football activities had been suspended. ZIFA understands that PSL clubs are withholding these player clearances on the basis of ZIFA having issued such a directive. This is factually not correct and we make reference to our circular to all ZIFA Affiliates dated 31 December 2020.”

ZIFA reiterated their position but added that the guidelines are not legally binding.

“We clearly outlined guidelines in relation to expiring contracts in the covid-19 era. These remain guidelines only and are not at all of a legal binding nature. For the avoidance of doubt, ZIFA cannot prescribe to contracting parties on how their relationship must be governed neither can the Association interfere on labour matters involving two parties except to urge them to dialogue, find common ground instead of resorting to avoidable conflict. Our guidelines were precisely to avoid such and nothing else. Any interpretation therefore by either party that ZIFA directed the status of contracts is therefore incorrect.

“In the interest of all parties and football progress and having observed potential crisis, ZIFA intends to register all affected players with clubs of their choice so they can play football while whoever is aggrieved can pursue for recourse through proper dispute handling procedures as available in our football statutes. While a contract of employment is binding on the individuals concerned, we would want to believe that where several remedies are available to the offended party such must be utilized without resorting to the use of interdicts which in terms of common law can only be relied upon where no other remedies such as damages or compensation can be pursued.”

ZIFA further requested comments from PSL Clubs regarding these issues and assured PSL that they are not overriding the league’s power.

“This is the reason why ZIFA is soliciting comments directly from PSL clubs. This is not in any way to demean the PSL as an institution but our way of trying to find common ground before any disputes are escalated to the responsible bodies. ZIFA is treating this issue as urgent and we urge all PSL clubs to respect the deadline above. In the final analysis it is ZIFA’s wish that real football resumes and the attention goes rightfully to the real sporting action rather these negativities which have an effect of soiling the game and all its stakeholders.”

Football games are set to return this weekend but a number of players are still embroiled in messy disputes with their soon to be former clubs.