Kelechi Nwakali transfer : Nigerian Club calls out Arsenal Board for deception:: All Nigeria Soccer

Kelechi Nwakali transfer : Nigerian Club calls out Arsenal Board for deception:: All Nigeria Soccer

Nigerian clubside ASJ Academy has once again called out Arsenal FC for their unprofessional conduct and deception in the Kelechi Nwakali transfer, and also accused the English FA and media of bias and covering up her affiliate clubs in this interview granted by Emeka Amajiriaku the GM of ASJ Academy.

ANS: It has been reported in the local news recently that Arsenal lied and deceived you in the aftermath of the transfer of your former player Kelechi Nwakali. It is on record that Kelechi joined Arsenal from Diamond Football Academy so how could this have happened?

EA: Yes we stand by our claim because Arsenal’s behavior towards us was, to say the least very shocking, disgraceful and unbecoming of such a club held in high esteem worldwide.

The response of the English FA and media have also shocked us too and reveals a high level of institutional corruption in the way claims from small clubs against the so called big English teams are treated by their FA and press.

ANS: Please clarify these.

EA: I will. Let me start from the beginning. Kelechi was trained in ASJ Academy before he went to join Diamond Football Club from where he went to the FIFA U17 World Cup in 1995 and won the MVP and Arsenal picked interest in him and signed him for £2.5m.

The transfer was directly between Arsenal and Diamond Football Academy. But, FIFA in her graciousness brought out a scheme to ensure that all clubs who were involved in the training of a player in his formative years get a compensation every time the player transfers in order to encourage the clubs to groom more players.

This scheme has been in place for many years and I am sure Arsenal has benefited from it severally.

We approached Arsenal for our payment but Arsenal lied to us and deceived us and told us that we were not qualified to receive this payment and instead offered to pay us solidarity compensation, which according to them was what we were qualified to receive.

ANS: There are different parameters to qualification to receive Training Compensation. How exactly were you qualified to receive it in Kelechi’s transfer?

EA: When a player is registered for the first time as a professional, all the clubs that were involved in his training get Training Compensation. Subsequently, only his last club get Training Compensation.

Arsenal was Kelechi’s first registration as a professional footballer and ASJ Football Academy were qualified for training compensation but were conned and deceived by Arsenal.

ANS: Why did Arsenal tell you that you were not qualified to receive Training Compensation?

EA: Arsenal knew what they were ding right from the very beginning. They skillfully guided us away from the truth that we were entitled to training compensation and turned us to solidarity compensation which is a far smaller payment.

They paid us around £16, 000 for solidarity compensation, and evaded paying us 220, 000 Euros which was our entitlements for training compensation because training compensation is pro rata calculation of what it would have cost the buying club to train the player themselves.

ANS: How did Arsenal inform you that you were not entitled to Training Compensation?

EA: FIFA Rules state that the buying club must seek out the players training clubs but Arsenal did not do this. They could easily have done it by asking the player or reaching out to the Nigerian Football Federation.

But they kept quiet, hoping we would never know so the could evade both the training and solidarity compensation payments. A few months after Kelechi joined Arsenal we learnt about the FIFA training and solidarity compensation mechanisms and so, through Mr. Allwell Nwakali (Kelechi’s brother and later agent who is close to us) we informed Arsenal through Mr. Dick Law who at that time was their Head of Football Operations that we wanted to make a claim for our training and solidarity compensation entitlements.

Dick Law informed us that we were not entitled to training compensation from Arsenal and offered to help us recover solidarity compensation.

Arsenal also confirmed this in several email correspondences where they told us we were not entitled to training compensation despite having full knowledge that we were.

ANS: You mean Arsenal also wrote to you saying you were not entitled to Training Compensation?

EA: Yes, not once, not twice. Severally. It is important to point out that throughout a chain of communications spanning an exchange of many letters from July 2020 till January 2021, Arsenal never for once denied informing us that we were not entitled to Training Compensation.

In fact, in their email dated 23/11/2020 the Club Secretary Mr. David Miles said ‘From the information that we were given at the time of the transfer, it appears that the ASJ academy was entitled to a solidarity payment, which was subsequently paid by Arsenal FC, but not a Training and Compensation payment’. Arsenal maintained this position throughout, and it is a direct corroboration of what Mr. Law told us verbally.

ANS: How do you mean having full knowledge that you were?

EA: Yes, Arsenal clearly knew what they were doing. They based their claim that we were not entitled to Training Compensation on a clause they put themselves in their transfer agreement with Diamond Football Academy.

The clause which stated that DFA covenants that ‘the Player is registered with it as a professional for the purposes of Article 2(2) of the FIFA Regulations’. However, from the International Player Passport issued by the Nigerian Football Federation at the time of transfer it was stated clearly that the player was an amateur while at Diamond.

Arsenal knew this even before we approached Dick Law but they chose to lie to us and depend on the clause ahead of the Player Passport.

Arsenal were quite aware that Diamond Football Academy cannot, by virtue of that warranty, disenfranchise any lawful claims from any third party club yet they led us to believe that they were not entitled to training compensation based only on that clause.

ANS: So you believed Arsenal initially?

EA: What could we do? We were a naïve African club being involved in our very first ever transfer and therefore had no reason to doubt a global brand like Arsenal, and never in our wildest dreams thought that Arsenal would lie and mislead us like they have done.

ANS: What happened when you discovered that you were entitled to Training Compensation too?

EA: When we discovered that we were indeed entitled to Training Compensation as Kelechi’s move to Arsenal was his first registration as a professional we approached Arsenal again and despite providing every proof Arsenal demanded from us, Arsenal refused to pay us, turning around to now claim that our claim was now statute barred as it was more than 2 years after the transfer in question.

ANS: Is this the true position of the law?

EA: According to our attorney, Barrister Johnny Ogbah of Activity Chambers, FIFA regulations do not say that after two years the new club can be free from making a payment.

It only states generally that FIFA does not adjudicate over cases in which the cause of action resulted more than two years before the claim was started.

But Arsenal refused to pay because they know FIFA cannot now force them because the transfer of Kelechi to Arsenal was more than two years old.

Considering that we approached Arsenal just a few months after the transfer and they lied to us, we reminded them of their culpability in our not putting a claim before two years and appealed to them to pay us out of their good conscience.

ANS: What was their reaction?

EA: They refused. In fact, they tried to deceive us with more lies, thinking we were still naive. Then offered us a meager amount as pay off but we declined it.

ANS: You mean they lied to you again?

EA: Yes. In their letter of 14th December 2020 they lied that ‘The amount of Training Compensation that was paid (to Diamond Football Academy) was 10,000 US Dollars, an amount equivalent to a sum representing the years of registration that Kelechi was playing for The ASJ Academy.’ They stated this and then offered us a miserly 5000 USD ‘in full and final settlement that would close this matter to the satisfaction of both parties.’

ANS: Did you accept it?

EA: Of course this offer was unacceptable and outrightly rejected. It is falsehood to say that $10, 000 is the total training compensation due us. According to the FIFA Training Costs and Categorization of clubs for the year 2016, Arsenal is a Category 1 club and under UEFA Training Costs categorization, the yearly cost for a Category 1 club is 90, 000 EUR per year from the age of 16-23 and 10, 000 EUR per year from ages 12-15.

ASJ Academy trained Kelechi from the years of his 12-17th birthday, which, by the above calculation totals 220, 000 EUR. It is also a lie that they paid Diamond Football Academy $10, 000. We still have a cordial relationship with Diamond and they deny this.

If indeed this is what they paid Diamond Football Academy for the period they trained Kelechi then they have deceived the poor, naïve club and this behavior should also be investigated as it shows a pattern of cheating and deceiving naïve clubs they do business with.

ANS: Did you report them to the English FA?

EA: Yes we did. But even before we did we were warned that the FA would never investigate Arsenal and sadly enough, the FA did not even have the dignity to acknowledge receipt of our letter talk less of respond to our call for them to investigate their affiliate club Arsenal.

ANS: You mean the FA totally ignored you?

EA: Not just the FA. Even UEFA. But it’s not surprising. There is a recognize trend of institutional corruption and racism in the FA where similar claims by small, disadvantaged clubs are ignored as they protect their so called big clubs. I will give you an example.

Do you know that the money for the transfer fees of Kelechi Iheanacho never got to Taye Academy? Instead Man City paid it to their agents who had opened a bank account for Taye Academy in America and when the poor club reported this to the FA they swept it under the carpet and protected Man City because they too were culpable.

In England, clubs pay transfer fees to the FA who then transfer it to the recipient clubs after due process checks. So it is the FA that paid money meant for Taye Academy in Nigeria to Taye Academy in America knowing fully well it would not get to the original recipients.

ANS These are some damning allegations. Do you have proof?

EA: Yes. The same lawyer that represented Taye Academy when they realized the fraud also represented us against Arsenal. Also, we are based in the same city as Taye Academy so we know each other well. The story is well known in Nigeria how the English FA aid their clubs to dupe poor African clubs.

ANS: Did you make any other efforts including using the power of the press?

EA: Yes we did. We tried to reach out to a few UK media houses but it was either not a big enough story for them or they couldn’t care less that we were so cheated so nothing came out of it.

ANS: So, have you given up on the claim?

EA: Not at all. We will keep fighting till someone in a position to investigate our claims does so.  We hope some civil liberty organizations can hear our cry and fight for us. We hope our cry will get to the UK Parliament and they act because it’s no longer just about us.

If nothing is done now Arsenal will repeat it again and the English FA will do nothing. There has to be someone somewhere who should make Arsenal accountable. On their own, their should e someone in Arsenal who should raise their hands and admit they made a genuine mistake and pay us our entitlements.

In line with what has happened recently with the European Super League, it shows the owners of Arsenal and the management are all about the money and can go to unimaginable lengths, including lying and cheating, all for the money.

And the FA and media will just fold their hands and do nothing. That does not portray English football well globally.

Ifeanyi Emmanuel

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