A POTENTIAL CONFLICT is brewing between East Bengal's corporate partners, Quess, and the Football Players' Association of India.
Earlier yesterday, renowned journalist Marcus Merghulao reported that the club will not pay its players for the month of May. This notification was sent to players after Quess-appointed officials triggered the "force majeure" clause in the players' contracts in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The seldom-invoked 'force majeure' clause is described in players' contracts as,
"... An event or circumstance which is beyond the reasonable control of a party and which makes a party's performance of its obligations impossible and includes but is not limited to wars, acts of terrorism, civil riots, hostilities, public disorder, epidemics, fires, acts of God."
The move from Quess comes after the remainder I-League 2019-20 season was abandoned by AIFF last week. Some other clubs, too, are considering making a similar move.
The FPAI immediately stepped in to register their disagreement online as worry mounted that hundreds of players may be affected if other clubs follow suit.
No club can prematurely terminate contracts with players because of the pandemic. There has to be a mutual understanding and the player must agree to it. We are in touch with all the players and will take up this issue on a priority basis with global stakeholders @FIFPro
"It is acknowledged that, as a general rule, employment agreements shall be governed by national law and the contractual autonomy of the parties. Having said this, and consistent with article 18 paragraph 2 of the RSTP, it is proposed that... where an agreement is due to expire at the original end date of a season, such expiry be extended until the new end date of the season."
It is to be noted that while the 2019-20 Indian football season was supposed to run till May, it has now effectively been ended in early April.
However, FPAI disagree with this viewpoint. According to them, this move would have made sense if the season had several months left. But since it has technically ended just one month short, it's unfair to deprive the players of a month's pay in these troubled times.
This does open up the possibility of the issue being tried out in court, provided mediation by FPAI (and possibly AIFF) fail to bring a resolution to this situation.