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The opacity of Papic’s contract cost Hearts

BY: Peter Sarbah
Kosta Papic
Kosta Papic

When contractual agreement in football becomes as opaque as what we have in this part of the world, it gives room for all kinds of manipulations and speculations.

Elsewhere in the developed world transparency is the order of the day, and before a player or a coach is appointed by a club his condition of service is known not only between him and his employers but the public as well.

By so doing it becomes difficult for any of the parties to go contrary to what has been stipulated in the contract without any consequences, as well as clearing every doubt that is likely to arise as a result of the contract.

Across the country, contracts between club and footballers and coaches have often been shrouded in secrecy and it is only when there is a bone of contention, or when one party is aggrieved at a point, that details of the contract are unraveled.

It is not only the clubs that run this kind of opaque administration, but also the Ghana Football Association that is supposed to oversee fairness and transparency in the game are themselves guilty of this practice.

Kosta Papic’s exit
About a fortnight ago, the football fraternity was taken aback by the news of the resignation of Accra Hearts of Oak's Serbian gaffer, Kosta Papic, just two months into his contract, immediately after which he took up another appointment with the Black Leopards of South Africa.

As shocking as the news was, both parties began shifting blame on each other. While the coach blamed interference from the club’s top hierarchy for his resignation, the club rebuffed that allegation insisting coach Papic acted in bad faith when they trusted him so much during his second stint with the club.

In the midst of these, one question that kept reverberating in the minds of many football enthusiasts and club followers was what kind of contract did the club sign with Papic such that he could just walk out of his job without any sanction.

About 12 years ago, when Papic first landed his job with the Phobians, although details of his contract were not known to the public, just as it is now, it was uncovered that his conditions of service were quite enticing compared with the situation on his second spell with the club.

Previous contract
Investigations by the Graphic Sports has uncovered that during his first tenure in 2008, the 60-year-old coach signed a three years contract which saw him take home $5000 each month. That amount is aside other enticing benefits embedded in the contract.

As part of his benefits, Papic received $30,000 as inducement fee, double match winning bonus, seven per cent prize money, free accommodation with air-condition, TV, radio, a car with air-condition and driver, medical care, two air tickets, house help, security, among others.
Twelve years down the line, sources close to the club hinted the Graphic Sports that these benefits had been diluted such that Papic was earning much less than the $5000 he received monthly during his first stint aside the not-so-enticing perks.

It was, therefore, not surprising that the Serbian coach could be let off the hook by his employers, having felt slighted by the conduct of Papic, when they could have had a better option of seeking redress from the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

Unwanted overtures
In the absence of any compelling contract the only other option left Hearts to compel the coach to have a change of mind, was to beg the coach. That was what we were told the club's majority shareholder and board chairman, Togbe Afede XIV, did unsuccessfully in a bid to persuade Papic to overturn his decision.

This overture clearly gives credence to the speculation that Papic was not handed any proper contract otherwise he could not have just got up one morning and resign under very flimsy excuse only to sign a new contract with another club less than a week later.

In any serious jurisdiction where football is managed properly this would not happen, and inasmuch as I believe the coach was unprofessional in his conduct, I believe the managers of the club must also take a greater chunk of the blame for how poorly they handled the issue.

Imagine Manchester United owner Malcolm Glazer begging his coach Ole Gunner Solskjaer to rescind his decision to quit the club, or Manchester City's billionaire owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan calling Pep Guadiola to beg him over a decision to resign.

This would not happen because their contracts clearly spells out what must be down even in the event that one party wants to terminate the contract.

Papic’s action must be a lesson for clubs and mangers in the local league to adopt accepted and professional ways of managing contractual relationships to avoid such a spectacle recurring in our local game.