Referee, Chris Beath speaks with Kim Eun-Sun of the Mariners after VAR reviewed and disallowed a Mariners goal during the Round 20 A-League match between the Central Coast Mariners and the Sydney FC at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, Sunday, February 23, 2019. (AAP Image/Brendon Thorne) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Referee, Chris Beath speaks with Kim Eun-Sun of the Mariners after VAR reviewed and disallowed a Mariners goal during the Round 20 A-League match between the Central Coast Mariners and the Sydney FC at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, Sunday, February 23, 2019. (AAP Image/Brendon Thorne) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Penniless foreigners left scrambling to put food on table

They are the A-League's forgotten foreign legion - the visa players who have not been paid a cent since mid-March, and yet will be expected to play again if the competition resumes as planned in July.

 

With foreign players excluded from the Government's JobKeeper program, visa signings at a majority of the A-League clubs have still been paid an equivalent sum by their employers since the point they were stood down when the league was suspended.

 

But the foreign players at Adelaide, the Mariners and Perth have not been paid, leaving them reliant in some cases on cash handouts from their union or on money sent from family in their homelands.

 

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Some have told teammates that their health insurance has not been paid by their club - usually a condition of their visa - and others have found out from landlords that their accommodation is overdue. Others, such as those at the Mariners, were told they could access their superannuation.

 

Some visa players, such as Mariners defender Kim Eun-sun, have returned home during the A-League's suspension and almost certainly won't come back, at least in time for the final month of the season due to kick off on July 18.

 

They now have the right to sign elsewhere, with Melbourne Victory marquee Ola Toivonen widely expected to join Swedish side Malmo.

 

Others have preferred to stay here, given Australia's relative success so far in controlling the coronavirus, even though they have been left in some cases scrambling just to put food on the table.

 

Perth Glory, the Mariners and Adelaide all declined to comment.

 

In the UK, the government's JobKeeper-style scheme explicitly includes foreign employees based in the UK, and a number of lower league clubs have used it.

 

At least there is the promise of some relief coming up. As part of the pay deal agreed with Football Federation Australia and the A-League clubs last week, all players will receive a proportion of their usual wages for the three months of June to August, through a mix of FFA's central grant and JobKeeper.

Melbourne Victory striker Ola Toivonen is expected to return to play in Sweden shortly.
Melbourne Victory striker Ola Toivonen is expected to return to play in Sweden shortly.

Clubs are also obliged to pay any outstanding entitlements by the middle of June, including the five weeks of annual leave each player is due but has not been able to take.

 

But with huge uncertainty over the status of the last three years of the A-League's broadcast contract with Fox Sports, and no matchday income expected to be earned by clubs for many months, some of the players involved say they aren't looking to the future with any degree of confidence.

 

"It was the clubs that brought us here, surely we are their responsibility?" said one.

 

"In many cases we can't leave, because there aren't flights or they cost a fortune.

 

"It's very sad when we get left to fend for ourselves like this."

Originally published as Penniless foreigners left scrambling to put food on table


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