Goal or no goal? The Real Cost of Salary Delays in Malaysian Football

By Associate Professor Dr. Mohamad Nizam Nazarudin, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia


KOTA KINABALU: The issue of delayed player salaries in the Malaysian Super League remains unresolved.

Recently, Sabah FC fans were taken aback by the ‘four fingers’ gesture made by players after scoring goals, interpreted as symbolising four months of unpaid salaries. While the club’s management has tried to downplay the severity of the issue, this article focuses on the impacts on players and teams resulting from these salary delays.

Financial instability within football teams not only causes logistical problems but also affects the psychological aspect, performance, and overall team dynamics.

The Transactional Model of Stress and Coping (Lazarus & Folkman) suggests that prolonged stress without adequate support can lead to chronic stress and emotional exhaustion (burnout).

This situation is particularly evident among players facing delayed salaries. Ongoing financial issues can also increase the risk of depression and anxiety among football players directly affected by these financial troubles.

According to Herzberg’s Motivation Theory, financial factors are considered hygiene factors. The absence of these can lead to high dissatisfaction and reduce players’ intrinsic motivation to perform at their best. Prolonged stress can impact cognitive abilities such as concentration and information processing, which are crucial in high-intensity sports like football. Football players also work to provide for themselves and their dependents.

The Self-Determination Theory (Ryan & Deci) states that extrinsic motivations, including salaries, are critical in maintaining players’ commitment to training and matches, which may not be intrinsically satisfying. This also links stress and a lack of resources with decreased athletic performance, where increased mental and physical stress can impair their game abilities.

Financial strain can spark interpersonal conflicts that damage team spirit and cooperation. Studies on leadership have found that financial crises test leaders’ abilities to maintain morale and unity among team members.

Financial uncertainty within clubs also pushes players to seek other opportunities, causing instability in team structure and composition.

It can be concluded that the long-term implications will adversely affect the club’s reputation. Publicly known financial issues can diminish an organisation’s reputation, making it difficult to attract and retain players.

If players take legal action against their employers, it could increase costs and further tarnish the club’s image.

Continuously poor sports performance can lead to a decrease in revenue and the club’s long-term viability. Fans may begin to boycott matches, and sponsors might become less interested in supporting the club. Referring to relevant studies and theories, prolonged salary delays can have profound effects on players’ psychological well-being, individual and team performance, and the stability of football club structures.

This situation demands a deep understanding and immediate action from all parties involved.

It is hoped that the issue of delayed player salaries can be resolved swiftly so that players and teams can function effectively without jeopardising the club’s reputation.

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