Yann M’Vila – Justice Denied

Yann M’Vila after Rubin’s 1-0 victory against Tosno this season. Photo: Rubin-kazan.ru

As I entered my 2nd full season in the management of a professional football club I was encountering some really strange moments. Not only had the newly elected club President tried to steal money set aside to repay investors, players and pay for a pre-season tour to Russia, but players were turning up at my home in shock as they were being told that agreed payment schemes were no longer valid. Rubin Kazan’s Yann M’Vila has been there and done that.

What happened around me in Malta was very simple. The new ‘ownership’ decided that agreements and debts of the past were not their problem. Any money sitting in club accounts were theirs to dispose of, even if it meant paying off gentlemen in Sicily who were demanding payment for bales dropped from passing tankers. When I turned to the authorities I found no support from the Maltese Football Association and even local lawyers refused to help as to take a case against a club would bring down the House of Cards. And what was worse, my attempt to bring players together to form some sort of Union was doomed as they were unwilling to stand together. The system was rigged against the players, in many cases by the players. For Yann M’Vila, his issue continues due to innate corruption supported by the World governing body for footballers’ unions, FIFPro.

Yann M’Vila vs Dinamo Moscow – Part 1

Two summers ago Yann M’Vila, the ‘troubled’ French International, signed a contract with Dinamo Moscow. By law, he was a Dinamo employee and that was that. At the time Dinamo were in serious financial trouble, and after Boris Rotenberg discarded the club they went on to be relegated, having already been banned from European competition. The transfer was cancelled and the $5 million Rubin were to receive wasn’t paid and the player was due compensation.

Initially Dinamo refused and when the player sought help he was guided towards the Disputes Resolution Chamber (DRC) which functions as an instrument to right the many wrongs in Russian football. It doesn’t always find in favour of players, however it is a way to normalise players rights in Russia. The DRC found against Dinamo and didn’t buy their excuse of – ‘it wasn’t we who signed the agreement, but the old owners’. The bill the Moscow club were hit with was substantial (M’Vila was going to be earning $2 million a season under the contract) and the club, already struggling financially, faced going bust and certainly not getting a Premier League licence. So Yann did what any decent person would do, the same as what we did in Malta. He agreed to a compromise.

Yann M’Vila vs Dinamo Moscow – Part 2

I sat down with one player, one of our best players from the previous season, who was owed a total of $17,000 for the previous 3 seasons. The sum was made up of bonuses and missed salaries. At the end of each season he’d sign an agreement that he had no pretensions against the club. The club would, normally, sign an agreement to pay and until I arrived it had never been honoured in full, and rarely even in part.

A main task of mine was to wipe out historic debt, so paying a player $200 a month on top of his $1000 monthly wage was fair. In fact, in some cases we were able to pay down the debt in kind. A midfielder needed tuition fees for a Masters degree, I negotiated with the University of Malta to get him a scholarship – hey presto his $8,000 debt from the club dropped to zero. It took work, honesty and trust from both sides. Yann M’Vila gave and expected the same from Dinamo.

A payment schedule was agreed, yet never met. Dinamo were brought back to the DRC time and again, each time trotting out the same old arguments, and refusing to comply with rulings. The DRC lost patience and forbade the club from registering any new players until the debt before M’Vila was settled. Tough on the club, however how is it possible to sign new players when you’ve no money to pay the ones who have? Football business isn’t set up to be sensible.

And then it all changed, and changed completely. A 3rd appeal by Dinamo came before the DRC, with the odds stacked in their favour.

Dinamo Moscow vs Football

I have great time for many people involved with Dinamo Moscow. From their Directors to club officials to players. There isn’t one I’d call a bad person or immoral. In fact for their Executive Director, Evgeni Krechetov, I once defended him in front of ex-Lokomotiv Moscow President Olga Smorodskaya. She and her son-in-law were trying to blacken his name with a Spartak-friendly journalist, saying Evgeni had received a bribe from a contractor for work done at Cherkizovo. The journo met me at Katie O’Shea’s pub on Prospect Mira as we watched a match and upon hearing the tale I offered a vigorous defence. The story was mentioned on Sport FM as a throwaway but the article was spiked.

Evgeni was given a place on the DRC committee by the Union of Footballers, Trainers and Agents (PSFT). Of course everyone knows about the outlandish behaviour past, and present, by this Union of one and it’s kingpin Nikolai Grammatikov. While FIFPro continue to publicly refuse to comment on their investigations into the misuse of funds, criminal enterprise and graft by Grammatikov and his henchmen, privately they are abhorred.

Yesterday an inside source with FIFPro told this writer that how a lawyer from the PSFT (Ilya Bolotsky) could represent a football club (Dinamo) against a player was beyond them. Though they would not go on record, since the organisation fear scrutiny from it’s members, FIFA and media over the more than half a million euros paid out to the PSFT in support funds, there are moves afoot to staunch the bleeding.

One national Footballers Union from an English-speaking nation would only say that they were “appalled” at this state of affairs and hoped that FIFPro would do the right thing soon. I spoke with two Sports Editors yesterday from Russian publications. Neither thought it worth exposing, despite their publishing stories on the lifting of the ban on Dinamo. Critical discussion is about as much a feature of the Russian media landscape as it is in England. Dinamo are doing what a football club should, protecting their own interests, even at the expense of the sport. The PSFT are doing what they do best, make money from ensuring players keep moving, even at those players’ expense.

Yann M’Vila – Rubin Forever

At a recent football match in Ulyanovsk I spoke with a club official from Gazovik Orenburg. Their reserves had just been tonked 6-2 by home side Volga in a Division 2 game and he was all chat about players on the move. With a Volga Director we discussed the Premier League and Rubin. The Gazovik man told me, “They need to move players, money problems.” True or no, it is indicative of why M’Vila was on loan at Inter Milan and Sunderland in bids to get his salary off the books. The story of him ransacking his Moscow home should have been more than clickbait for Russia’s answer to Sky and Fox News, Life News. The story, fed by the club in 2015, raised no eyebrows or critical thinking amongst journalists.

Why was it not reported that he had already signed a contract but that the club were playing games with him? Why was he further blackened by the PSFT who should have been working on his behalf? Could it be that, as everyone knows, the PSFT and Grammatikov are one of the most active player agencies in Russia? Of course Grammatikov’s contradiction of his own ‘union’s’ player survey were not pulled up when he gave an interview for foreign media this Summer. From reporting to FIFPro that all was well in Russia with players, the troubled Grammatikov told that 25% of Premier League players had wages “delayed” and 50% of FNL players the same. That he’d told blatant lies in conducting a survey among players had been exposed 3 months earlier was not questioned.

This season Yann is performing well. He’s appeared in all but one of Rubin’s seven matches so far, playing 530 minutes of 540. Against Anzhi in his last game he was involved in one goal and scored a peach to make it 5-0. Should he keep up this form Rubin will challenge for a top-five spot and M’Vila will pick a club next summer. Yet the likelihood that he will receive legal compensation from the club who signed him then broke their contract is lessening so long as the odds are stacked against players by an illegal ‘union’ run by agents and FIFPro. And when the media refuse to report it, no change is in sight soon.

Author: Alan Moore

A Russia-based Sports Journalist and Consultant, worked with major sports clubs including:- Spartak Moscow, Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt. Boxed Internationally, played semi-pro football and I worked full-time in sports management/consultancy from 2003-13.

First published professionally on football in 1990, first Russian league match in 1991, now Hosting Capital Sports on Capital FM, Moscow and writing the odd article.

Leave a Reply