The Malta FA has asked its board of internal auditors to carry out an inquiry into allegations flagged by a member of the Premier Division Standing Committee (PDSC) about irregularities in the awarding of contracts and sub-contracts for infrastructural works at local football facilities.
Norman Darmanin Demajo, MFA president, said they had received a letter from the PDSC casting doubts over the association’s handling of contracts while also posing a series of questions.
Darmanin Demajo said, among other things, the PDSC expressed concern at what it described as “a lack of transparency”.
“The letter contains insinuations and allegations,” Darmanin Demajo said.
The letter, sent on April 2, was discussed during the last meeting of the Malta FA Executive Committee, held last week.
Darmanin Demajo told Council members yesterday that, since the letter was signed by Mario Debono in his capacity as secretary of the PDSC, it could not be acknowledged by the Exco as the PDSC is not officially recognised under the MFA statute.
The Exco members recommended that the letter be signed by Debono in his capacity as MFA council member or by persons who were officially recognised but Darmanin Demajo said that, given the seriousness of the claims made by the PDSC, he had advised to the chairman of the association’s board of internal auditors to initiate an inquiry without delay.
“We have instructed the board to do all the necessary inquiries,” Darmanin Demajo said.
The letter sent by the PDSC has not been made public but it is understood that the allegations and questions primarily concern construction and renovation works carried out at the Tedesco Stadium and Mosta ground.
Adrian Delia, president of Bir-kirkara FC, asked whether the MFA had any intention of amending its statute to grant official recognition to the PDSC and other standing committees.
Darmanin Demajo replied by saying that the MFA engages in discussion with the standing committees, especially when it comes to bouncing off ideas and matters of interest for a particular division.
The MFA president said, at this moment in time, there were no plans to grant the standing committees recognition under the association’s statute but, on Dr Delia’s insistence, Darmanin Demajo declared that it was up to the MFA Council to discuss these matters.
Dione Borg, Floriana FC’s representative, outlined the circumstances that prompted the PDSC to write the said letter to the MFA.
Reacting to Darmanin Demajo’s remark that he had been awaiting feedback from the PDSC on the new business model for the Premier League but instead received a contentious letter about the association’s handling of contracts, Borg said that the PDSC had evaluated the business proposals at length.
Borg added that they had discussed the monetary value of the season ticket after the recommended price of €230 had not gone down well with the fans.
“During this discussion, one of the PDSC members made a serious allegation and we felt it was our obligation to inform the MFA,” Borg said.
“I’m saying this for the sake of clarity. This is not a mud-slinging campaign but we want the MFA to address our questions.”
Bjorn Vassallo, the MFA general secretary, gave a timeline of the events that triggered a police investigation into allegations that the Malta U-21 team’s Euro qualifiers against Montenegro and Czech Republic, played last month, may have been targeted for match-fixing purposes.
Last week, Seyble Zammit, 21, pleaded guilty to a series of match-fixing charges but was exempted from punishment because he co-operated with the police.
Vassallo said Zammit, who is still on the books of Valletta FC, has been provisionally suspended by the Malta FA, as is normal practice, pending the outcome of the association’s inquest into the case.
“We have notified both UEFA and FIFA about this investigation,” Vassallo said, adding that he was only stating facts that are already in the public domain as the police probe has not been concluded.
“When the MFA receives all the documentation relating to the judicial process, we will launch our own disciplinary proceedings.”
Dr Delia enquired with MFA officials whether the rule that binds players to report a match-fixing approach can be enforced by clubs.
Lawyer Chris Bonett, the MFA vice-president, said, firstly, there is a jurisdictional issue as the games at the centre of match-fixing allegations are UEFA U-21 qualifiers.
“We are in constant contact with UEFA,” Dr Bonett, who drew comparisons with the Norway-Malta case, said.
“Secondly, the regulations don’t extend to the actions a club can take against the player in case of a match-fixing approach,” he added.
“This is only regulated by the contract between the club and player.”
Dr Bonett added that UEFA’s regulation on the failure to report an offer to throw a game is more stringent than that of the Malta FA.
On another matter, Dr Bonett urged clubs not to enter into pre-contract agreements with players if they are not sure they are going to retain them.
It transpires that the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber has ordered Tarxien Rainbows to pay a sum in the region of €38,000 in compensation to two foreign players who had signed a pre-contract with the Maltese club last summer only to be rejected after failing to meet the fitness requirements.
Dr Bonett explained that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) had ruled that a pre-contract is binding if it contains the elements of a valid agreement like duration of contract and wages.
• Vittoriosa Stars goalkeeper James Mercieca has been provisionally suspended for breaching MFA regulations on betting on domestic games.
• The MFA Appeals Board confirmed the rulings made by the Anti-Corruption Board who, in 2014, had imposed life bans on former Ħamrun Spartans defenders Roderick Fenech and Massimo Grima for match-fixing.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us