14 November 2017

Liberia: Thomas Kojo's Threat of Legal Action Against the LFA

The Liberia Football Association recently, and without holding any discussion with those involved, terminated the contracts of four coaches, including James Salinsa Debbah of the senior national team, Thomas Kojo and his deputy Janjay Jacobs of the U23 national team and Chris Wreh of the U20 national soccer team.

Though the contents of the contract were not made public, making it difficult to know what action the aggrieved coaches could pursue, Thomas Kojo has reportedly threatened to seek fair play in court.

The LFA's decision was based on a discussion with the Ministry of Youth & Sports.

And this is where the issue of unfairness comes in. The LFA knows the importance of fair play in its dealings with players and coaches and therefore one would think that in dealing with Liberian coaches, it would have played fair with them.

What makes the situation more unfair is that the LFA owes those affected coaches eight months in arrears. But before canceling their contracts, the LFA did not and could not raise funds enough to cover the arrears, which also makes the situation more depressing.

However, while there might be a plausible reason for canceling the contracts, the manner of terminating them was just bad and showed lack of respect for professionals contracted to work for Liberia.

But let me point out that for what the LFA has done to the coaches, it would appear that the LFA felt it was doing them a favor by appointing them to head the various national associations, and they too felt they could reciprocate the LFA's generosity by performing well in their respective positions.

The LFA said the contracts were terminated because Liberia is not engaged in any competition until 2018 and also due to difficulties the LFA is facing to secure funding for the national teams' programs.

Do the national teams have programs? The last time I checked, the only programs were 'friendly international matches' in the most dangerous parts of the world. Recall that the senior national team, Lone Star, played a friendly international match on May 30, 2013, with the Iraqi national team in Baghdad for an unspecified sum of money.

So far, we are not aware of any programs for the various national soccer teams and therefore the excuse used by the LFA to terminate the coaches' contracts is weak.

The LFA said the decision was not based on the coaches' past performances, even though the U20 and U23 teams are yet to participate in any tournament. It is only the home-based senior national team that recently played in the WAFU Tournament in Ghana. And so the question is: why are the U23 and U20 teams not being kept busy? The obvious answer is 'No money.'

Since the LFA was aware of the lack of money to develop the youth national teams, why did the LFA appointed the coaches in the first place? The coaches should have also known that what has happened would have happened someday. Why? What do their contracts say in the event of premature termination, as is the current case? The answer to that question will furnish them some possibility of success in any legal solution against the LFA.

But in fact the coaches could explore other avenues, like the Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS), should the LFA refuse to correct what is wrong in the current case. In the end, the coaches should realize that once the LFA thinks it is doing them a favor by employing them, the same unfair play might return in the future.

*The views expressed here are the writer's and not necessarily those of the Daily Observer.

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