It is sad to read all of the stories circulating about Perth Glory’s Rhys Williams in the past few weeks as the player looks to negotiate his way away from his hometown club.
It was in April of 2016 that Perth Glory announced that they had signed Perth-born Williams who had made 126 league appearances for Middlesbrough, who he also captained, after debuting in the English Premier League in 2007.
Williams had been struggling with injury in recent times and had missed both the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups with Australia due to injury. The move home was expected to resuscitate a career that was stuttering. Prior to signing for Glory Williams had played in four games for Charlton Athletic during a one-month loan stint.
“After 11 years in the UK, the opportunity to re-unite with my family and re-join a manager who believes in me and my football is the tonic I need for my career.” Williams was quoted as saying at the time of his signing. Yet as is so often the case the homecoming has not been as happy as all would have liked.
Without game time the relationship between the player and the coach has disintegrated, and as rumours that Sydney FC were interested in signing the player and ending his misery, the situation has gone from bad to worse.
Yet the whole saga raises a crucial issue, the one of transfer fees.
Williams is still under contract and Perth Glory has said that they are happy for him to make a move overseas as they will receive a transfer fee from such a move. However a move to another club in the A-League would see them receive nothing.
The no transfer fees rule in the A-League means that players in a situation such as this can hold the clubs to ransom. If there was a transfer fee, then the fans, the player and Perth Glory would soon find out how serious Sydney FC were about signing Williams as a replacement for Matt Jurman, a player they just received a transfer fee from when he moved to Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the K-League.
Graham Arnold coach of Sydney FC stated in the media that money is there, but with no transfer fees between A-League clubs, the owners would be thrilled if he could pick up a player for nothing. “We have enough money for two players and we’re working hard to find the right player to make us even stronger than what we are at the moment.” Arnold was quoted as saying.
Arnold is a wily manager and knows that officially he cannot talk to Williams while he is under contract unless Perth Glory give him and Sydney FC permission, and he again stated that this was the case in the press. “I haven’t had any personal contact with him. I can only see from afar, but when he’s playing youth team for Perth I can imagine he’s not happy.” However you can be sure that Williams agent is doing an excellent job as an intermediary.
Williams, who is no longer training with Perth Glory is so desperate to leave that he offered to buy out his contract in order to leave. However players are in fact no longer allowed to buy out their contracts under FIFA regulations; however like many of the FIFA rules and regulations there is a way around this.
The FFA would be wise to be watching this situation very carefully and re-assessing whether transfer fees should be introduced into the A-League. They would also be wise to watch the way this plays out in light of the comments made by the recently departed Sydney FC goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic.
Janjetovic who had spent three seasons with Sydney FC, and had played every minute of every game in three of those seasons has claimed he was forced out at Sydney FC and wanted to move to Newcastle jets. “I said let me go to Newcastle instead. You know what they said to me. What’s in it for us??” Janjetovic said on Twitter. In the end he moved to Western Sydney Wanderers in a swap with Andrew Redmayne.
Arnold has played a straight bat on the issue and claimed he did not want Janjetovic to leave Sydney FC, yet Janjetovic has claimed, “In actual fact they made contact to the rivals and told them that they can have me I didn’t even know about it.” It would be very unusual if that were the case and the head coach knew nothing about it.
As Janjetovic quite rightly said how can a contracted player force a club’s hand? Williams is trying that at Perth Glory. To some Williams is the bad guy. A player who cannot get a game, and because he cannot get a game wants to leave, and is now rocking the boat. Others believe it is poor management at Perth Glory that has resulted in the player wanting to leave, and with this coming at the same time as crowd favourite, and last season’s captain Josh Risdon announcing that he is leaving, and expected to head to Western Sydney Wanderers that viewpoint has gained momentum.
Either way the January transfer window is extremely disruptive to some clubs. Some lack the experience to handle the situations that arise and are at a loss as to what to say when a comment is needed, and when they should shut up. Sydney FC and Graham Arnold’s experience in the game has come to the fore for this January, and if the club does end up with Williams it would be though some outstanding verbal manoeuvring.
Should Perth Glory let Rhys Williams go? Should they look to get something in return as Sydney did with Janjetovic? In doing so they would have a say as to which club he goes to if he wants to leave?
These situations are not good for the A-league, but as we have seen overnight with a wonderful press conference from West Ham coach Slaven Bilic on the situation with Dimitri Payet not wanting to play for the club, these situations are rife in football today.
Players employ agents to get them the best deals they can with clubs. Clubs negotiate in good faith and give players the contract that they agree with. So surely the club’s have every right to expect players to honour that agreement.
In the pre-Bosman era clubs had too much control as to where players went based on what they received in return for the player’s registration. Some would say that with no transfer fees the A-League is heading back to those dark days.
The FFA does not want to have transfers as they fear the rich clubs will then dominate the competition season after season. There is a possible short term solution to the issue. If a player wishes to move between A-League clubs in the January transfer window, while still under contract to a club a transfer fee must be paid.
At the moment it certainly does feel that a transfer system needs to come into play to avoid such a messy situation as has arisen, and one that has caused so much bad blood.