The South African Football Players Union says it will leave no stone unturned to make sure the rights of players are protected at all times. SAFPU is engaging with the owners of DSTV Premiership club, Royal AM, to make sure the contracts of former Bloemfontein Celtic players are honoured until they expire.

Royal AM owner, Shaun Mkhize, bought the status of Celtic last month and the club relocated to KwaZulu-Natal. Now some players are crying foul.

In recent years South Africa has seen a big rise in the sale of professional clubs. Eleven clubs were sold in the past five years. In most cases, lower division clubs buy the status of existing clubs in top-flight football.

The biggest problem is that the rights of players in most instances are not protected. Shaun Mkhize bought the status of a bankrupt Bloemfontein Celtic, and players were given short notice to relocate from the Free State to KwaZulu-Natal.

“We discussed issues that were raised by the players, the non-payment of salaries, the short payment of salaries, and the issue of accommodation. How they really relocated from Bloemfontein to Durban. Now what we have agreed on was that the club would have said they suspected that some of the contracts were forged and our agreement was very simple that the problem that leads to that it’s because there’s never due diligence when the club is bought,” says SAFPU president Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe.

SAFPU says safeguarding the interests and well-being of players is its main priority.

“We ensured that all those that were owed were paid their salaries and those that were not wanted by the club negotiated settlements and of course there are those who could not agree in terms of the settlements. Those matters we referring to we have sent them the letters and we will be referring those matters to the dispute resolution chamber,” Gaoshubelwe added.

But the football players union is happy that South African clubs have started acknowledging that players also have rights.

“I can tell you that at some point the rights of the players were never respected but I think it’s work in progress. I can tell you that a number of clubs do respect the contracts and the rights of the players. There are a few clubs of course I mean here and there and we still working on that particular process in particular when it comes to the rights of players. Because one thing a player, just like any other employee, would want to see is that their contract is respected,”¬† Gaoshubelwe explains.

Meanwhile, the international football players union – FIFPRO had a two-day conference in South Africa to elect representatives from the African continent to their global board.

“What we discussed a lot is actually the work that national unions do and how much they are supporting the players I mean we heard for example the story of Gabon where Remy and his team of the union have fought years-long battle to get the players paid who did not have money for two seasons or something like that and just the fight, the struggle, the perseverance to change the governance in the game and really put the players at the heart respect the human rights, ” says FIFPRO General Secretary Jonas Baer Hoffmann.

The conference attracted representatives from 18 African countries including Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, and Zimbabwe. The gathering was also attended by unions from Germany and New Zealand. The violation of players’ rights is what most unions are grappling with in different parts of the world.