Kedah face AFC Cup ban over unpaid wages to former coach David Mitchell
Malaysia FA Cup winners Kedah are facing a race against time to avoid being excluded from next year's AFC Cup over their failure to clear an outstanding payment to former coach David Mitchell.
Ex-Australia international Mitchell, who was at the helm of the club for a three-month stint at the start of the 2014 season, took his case to FIFA after Kedah failed to pay US$100,000 in compensation following his firing in April of that year.
FIFA ruled in the 55-year-old former Selangor striker's favour. But Kedah have yet to complete the payment, despite requests made by lawyers on Mitchell's behalf, and the expiration of a deadline set by the coach's legal representatives.
The non-payment puts Kedah's involvement in the continental club competition at risk as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) seeks to improve the financial governance of clubs participating in its competitions.
Clubs qualifying for the AFC Champions League, the AFC's premier club competition, were informed in July that all outstanding financial issues must be settled by Aug. 31 while similar regulations are in place for teams playing in the AFC Cup.
"We tried to pay David through his representative last month," Kedah secretary Datuk Aminuddin Omar told ESPN FC.
"We are aware of FIFA's order to pay him, but there have been transaction issues transferring the money to his representatives.
"We still owe him five to six months' salary, and intend to pay him his dues, but we are trying to resolve the issue at the moment."
Datuk Aminuddin said he was unable to confirm when the payment would be completed. But, with the Aug. 31 deadline looming, the clock is ticking for Kedah and their involvement in the 2018 AFC Cup.
Kevin Ramalingam, CEO of Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP), which manages the Malaysian league in these issues, said his body is monitoring the situation.
"We are keeping a close eye on this issue," he told ESPN FC. "Definitely any outstanding amount by Kedah will affect their participation in the AFC Cup.
"This is in line with AFC regulations to all competing clubs to have financial stability."
The situation comes just months after the election of Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ) as president of the Football Association, with the Crown Prince of Johor stating publicly his determination to improve the governance of the game in Malaysia.
Ex-Perth Glory boss Mitchell, meanwhile, has called for an improvement in the administration of the game in Malaysia.
"The thing about Malaysian football is that there are a lot of good players, and the fans are passionate, but there's a lot of money being wasted," he told ESPN FC.
"It should be going back into the game to help young players and to grow the game, not fighting these kind of issues. I believe in Malaysian football, but the administration needs to get much better.
"But not just that... I'd be very sad to see a proud club like Kedah kicked out of the AFC Cup if they don't pay. I don't want that. I'd rather they paid. It would be a sad day if that happens because they're a proud club."
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch