A-League hopefuls South Melbourne have hit back at claims they owe three former players $12,000 in unpaid wages, insisting the allegations are “unfounded” and part of a “smear campaign” against themselves and the NPL.
Nick Maikousis, president of the former NSL giants, said the club have “nothing to hide” and are open to any and all scrutiny from the PFA and Football Federation Victoria over the issue.
One of the players in question told News Corp his requests for his contract to be honoured had been repeatedly ignored, and others faced the same predicament.
The alleged missing payments all centre around termination clauses.
However, Maikousis said initial in-house investigations had revealed two of the three had been in breach of contract on departing the club, hence payments were withheld.
The other appeared to have been paid in full with a “nil balance”, he contended.
“This is part of an extraordinary campaign to discredit our club, and NPL clubs in general,” he said.
“We’re the biggest club of the lot of them and the easiest target. The accusations are unfounded.
“We don’t know exactly who the players are. But we have a gut feeling who they are and we’re comfortable in regards to our position in these matters.
“The reality is we’re one of the few (NPL) clubs that have been putting players on professional contracts for a long time now, and that places responsibilities on players as well as the clubs.
“Historically, there have been breaches (by players) and I think that’s (in part) what we’re referring to here.”
Only a week ago, Victorian rivals Avondale were fined $55,000 and docked points over player payment breaches, a practice thought to be rampant across the NPL nationwide.
But Maikousis believes “there are forces at play” looking to scupper the formation of a second division below the A-League, and these latest attacks on the NPL are part of a plot to undermine the competition as a whole.
Regardless, he vowed to cooperate with the PFA, who have urged FFV to pursue the issue with South, who 12 months back missed out on selection as an A-League expansion club.
“We’re happy for the PFA and the federation to put a grievance tribunal together,” he added.
“But we believe this is one big set up. We’re not really sure where all this is coming from.
“We have a few ideas but we’re not ready to go public with that yet.
“We’re happy to respond in detail (regarding the players’ claims) but have not been supplied with any real detail.”
Declining to be identified, one of the players told News Corp: “I’d just come off a long-term injury and was looking for the chance to play for a club and get regular opportunities.
“I joined South Melbourne and at first it worked out well. Eventually my good performances meant I was offered a chance elsewhere so I exercised a clause in my contract and organised the termination.
“As far as I was concerned I left on good terms, but then I didn’t get my final termination payment.
“They gave me excuses that they had made the payment and it had bounced back, but eventually I realised that I wasn’t the only player in this situation.”
Maikousis countered that South’s contracts are above board, unlike the situation at Avondale where players were signed to amateur deals but were sometimes paid “on the side”.
“We’ve never participated in any of that, our contracts are transparent and are sitting there at the FFV,” he said.
“We strictly abide by contracts, end of story. We are astonished by the lengths people will go to to try and talk down the NPL.”
This latest saga follows FIFA ordering South to pay tens of thousands of dollars to former coach Chris Taylor, who was sacked prior to the 2018 season, having won the NPL and reached the FFA Cup semi-finals in his four and a half years at the club.