Brisbane Roar are in a $330,000 training compensation fee fight with Danish Superliga club AGF Aarhus over Olyroos midfielder Zach Duncan, who earned just $60 a week on a National Youth League contract before heading to Europe via Marconi Stallions 14 months ago.
The case is before FIFA’s disputes resolutions chamber, with Brisbane demanding payment for Duncan, 20, who was on their books for two years, and made four senior appearances at the back of the 2018-19 A-League season.
The claim coincidentally coincides with former Roar coach Robbie Fowler seeking wrongful dismissal compensation from Brisbane through the world governing body over his shock exit in June.
It’s understood Brisbane view the Duncan proceedings as a test case on players departing A-League academies without clubs being compensated, and plan to disperse a percentage of any monies to Duncan’s two other former A-League sides, Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers.
However, Sydney-raised Duncan wasn’t offered a professional deal - which would have guaranteed a fee from AGF - during his time at Brisbane.
Instead, it’s claimed, he was invited to trial for Fowler with a view to earn a pro contract at the beginning of this season.
Currently recovering from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament injury, Duncan subsequently returned to boyhood NPL club Marconi, prior to agreeing a four-year deal with AGF, for whom he made 15 appearances in a breakout year.
Roar chief executive David Pourre was guarded in his comments, saying only: “Our international lawyers have been working on this case for a good period of time.
“We’re awaiting the single judge decision from FIFA.”
AGF director of football Peter Christiansen, who brought the likes of Socceroos Mustafa Amini and Alex Gersbach to the club, declined to comment, other than stating the matter was “in the hands of FIFA”.
Duncan was forced to work stacking shelves in an IGA store, waiting tables in a cafe and coaching kids privately to help make ends meet during his time with Brisbane, where he was a part of the NYL-winning team 18 months ago.
Father Trevor, a Sydney electrician, worked extra jobs to send Duncan $350 per week to cover his living expenses.
“Zach pretty much went up there with no guarantees but ended up getting a youth deal for $60 a week,” he said.
“There was no help with home stay, so initially he stayed with my sister but that was hard because she had kids.
“He then managed to rent a room with a mother of one (player from) Roar’s W-League team.
“Eventually I was giving him $350 a week and I’m not a rich person by any means.”
Before his father’s intervention, Duncan was working until 1am at IGA and then heading to the club at 7am for physio sessions.
“I told him to stop all the work and just put his heart and soul into football whilst I put my heart and soul into making sure he had enough money to survive,” Trevor added.
“These NYL deals are tough on kids. I’m obviously aware of Brisbane’s claim with FIFA and my view is ‘how can they ask?’
“If it wasn’t for the kid and his dad and family fully supporting and funding him he was never going to be a footballer.
“That’s the way it is for a lot of these youngsters coming through at any A-League club.
“There are no set training times, so how does that work with schooling and part-time work?
“If clubs across the league are asking for training compensation perhaps they should make everything free, including things like helping with accommodation.
“Zach simply left Brisbane when his NYL agreement expired.”