April 21, 2020

Legal Showdown Looming Between Rwanda League Champions and Players Over No Pay

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Rayon Sports players carry their former Brazilian Roberto Oliveira Robertinho who led Rayon to great heights recently but had to leave due to disagreement over payment issues

Players of Rayon Sports, the soccer league champions, have threatened to go to court if the club goes ahead to suspend their contracts.

This Monday April 20, team captain Rutanga Eric penned open letter on behalf of his collaeagues to the club, in response to an earlier letter which the club management sent to each of the players. The players’ letter says the club erred in different ways, rendering its letter irrelevant.

First, the club’s letter is announcing to the players that due to COVID-19 pandemic, the club is unable to pay them, and therefore has put off their contracts. As a result, the players, who had not been paid salaries of February 2020, will also not get any more payment until the pandemic is over.

However, the club said the players will get the February salary, but only after the pandemic is no more. It means that since February up to whenever the pandemic will be declared over, and Rayon Sports is back in business, the players will have to fend for themselves.

The decision by Rayong Sports to abandon its players is significant in Rwanda. It is the 2019 top league champion, and by far the team with largest and most vibrant fan base. Apart from easily obtained commercial sponsorships, the club also gets huge financial backing from fans. It is the only team able to get money from fans.

The other significance of Rayon Sports management led by chair Munyakazi Sadate throwing in the towel, shows that no other local team will be able to sustain itself. Other clubs have already announced pay cuts to players salaries.

Last month, Rayon chair Munyakazi went to Twitter pleading with government for help, including paying players. There has been no official response from government, itself already overwhelmed by many other things that need money.

Since February, government started imposing restrictions to control spread of the COVID-19 virus including suspension of all sports activities. And since March 14, the country has been on total lockdown.

The governing body of local soccer FERWAFA announced last week that the 2020 league is off until further notice. It suggests there will ever be football only after the pandemic is no longer a threat.

Back to public exchange of words between Rayon Sports and its players, the letters show a break up of communication. The club’s letter informing the players that their contracts have been suspended, was dated March 15, but the players received it April 20.

The players say the club should withdraw its decision and start talks with them on the way forward. Otherwise, says team captain Rutanga, they are going to court.

Rayon Sports club management letter (above) and the immediate response letter from players (below)

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