An Open Letter To The FA Over Kalinic

Subject: An Open Letter To The FA Over Kalinic
Date: 8 Feb 2016

Customer Relations
The Football Association
Wembley Stadium
PO Box 1966

4th February 2016

Dear Sirs

Re: Governance Body Endorsement (GBE) Case for a UK Work Permit re Lovre Kalinic & the subsequent appeal by Aston Villa FC


As an Aston Villa season ticket holder and a football supporter, and as a qualified financial planner, I am writing to complain about the FA procedures which prevented Lovre Kalinic the Croatian goalkeeper from transferring to the club in the January window. Having read the redacted adjudicator`s decision at the 2nd appeal stage, which is now published, I am appalled at how this case has been handled.

I understand a panel of 6 lawyers are in charge of hearings regarding GBE cases where a non EU player has applied for a work permit. Firstly let me remind the FA that Croatia became a member of the European Union in July 2013, however the UK government sort to delay this recognition for the purpose of UK entry until 2020. I would like to ask the FA how is it possible that these 6 lawyers are not vetted to see if any of them could possibly have a conflict of interest regarding ties to a rival football club in making a decision on whether a player can be deemed of a suitable standard for GBE as became apparent reading through the 2nd appeal made by Aston Villa FC?

I`d also like to ask the FA to explain why the judgement made by the adjudicator was redacted? Was this to protect the member of the panel, who failed to disclose their potential conflict of interest beforehand, from being named and shamed publicly and his ties to a club close to the bottom of premier league table at this time made apparent to the media? It reads like something the old Soviet Union produced with blackened out sections.

From reading through the judgement it is apparent that the adjudicator decided that the original appeal process had been lawful in that any conflict of interest, albeit undisclosed, could not be proved to have made a difference to the panel`s decision to overrule the points that the player had qualified for to be assessed at the original appeal.

What is astonishing in this case it that it is apparent the player actually met the 4+ points criteria but the panel overruled this qualification to state the player was not of the required standard to play in an elite league. Lovre Kalinic is 25 has played over 100 games for his club Hadjuk Split, is Captain of the team and has represented Croatian`s senior team on 2 occasions. Indeed in most International games he is the substitute goalkeeper on the Croatian bench.

Now let us compare those statistics with a 19 year old Serbian midfielder Marko Gujic who signed for Liverpool earlier in the January window and was successfully granted a GBE by the FA. This player has never made a senior appearance for his country and only ever been selected for their U21 team. He is not captain of the club he played for and in fact had only played for his club side for 30 games.

Therefore would the FA please explain how this apparent inconsistency in a process, that Greg Dyke said would make the subjective granting of work permits to play in the premier league open and transparent, has occurred?

Villa fans would like to ask the FA directly whether the same panel member who sat at the hearing for Lovre Kalinic whose name was redacted from the adjudicator`s decision had earlier been on the panel to make a judgement regarding Marko Gujic being of the required standard of player to be awarded a GBE?

How many points did Marko Gujic qualify for to reach the appeal stage? As it is admitted that Lovre Kalinic qualified for sufficient points to reach the appeal stage, but those were overruled by the panel, I`d like to ask if Marko Gujic actually met that points tally of 4 or more points or in fact was actually below the required minimum.

Looking at the criteria carefully assessing each individual section comparing the two cases, whilst not being party to all the facts, a number of outraged Villa fans have considered the following:-

Criteria 1 regarding the cost of the transfer being in the top 25% of transfers to all PL clubs - Grujic would score 0 points and Kalinic 0 points possibly.

Criteria 2 we think neither player would qualify for a point on the basis, as neither transfer is in the top half of PL transfers with similar fees paid for both players.

Criteria 3 & 4 Surely a 19 year old will not command wages within the top 25% of the top 30 earners at Liverpool? Whereas Aston Villa have cut their wage bill considerably in the past few years. Therefore we would surmise Kalinic scored 3 points under this heading & Grujic 0 points.

Criteria 5 We think both players would earn 1 point under this heading.

Criteria 6 Again we think both players meet this requirement and would earn 1 point under this heading.

Therefore assessing on the GBE appeal criteria Kalinic would score between 5 points, which is confirmed in the adjudication decision as being 4 points or more. However Grujic would score only 2 points and wouldn`t meet the required appeal criteria of 4 points or more.

How is it possible that a panel of 6 lawyers can use their powers of subjectivity, without football knowledge, to decide to overrule regarding a player who meets the requirements but deems him unsuitable yet deems a player of much less experience who does not meet the criteria as suitable and award him a GBE?

We can look at other cases both prior to the GBE criteria being brought into the work permit process and subsequently. For instance regarding Willian Borges da Silva from Brazil who only had 1 senior cap but signed for Chelsea and lately Kelechi Nwakali and Samuel Chukwueze two 16 year olds from Nigeria who have been signed by Arsenal and both granted GBEs. Alexandre Pato was granted a GBE who hasn`t played for Brazil for 3 years and probably won`t ever again and then there`s of course the curious case of Robert Kenedy aged 19 who also obtained a GBE and again signed for Chelsea having only ever played for Brazil`s U20 squad with a fee of £6.3M. Which criteria did these players meet and how many points did they qualify for?

To Aston Villa fans and no doubt the club, with due respect this whole matter stinks! The FA have allowed a lawyer who has affiliations with we surmise Newcastle, Sunderland or Norwich the teams who are currently relegation threatened rivals of the club to determine whether or not they can sign a new goalkeeper or not and invite an element of corruption into the process, which is simply unacceptable. The top clubs seem to have no trouble in securing work permits for their non EU players they wish to sign whilst a club like Aston Villa, who after all were a founder member of the football league, are treated in this manner.

The fact that other awarded cases cannot be referred to by an adjudicator at the 2nd appeal stage for him to as in effect utilise as "case law" also detracts from the justice that is applied at this stage. The adjudicators decision that the original appeal hearing`s decision may have been LAWFUL because a conflict of interest swaying a decision could not be proved, but was it equitable and fair and in the spirit of "the beautiful game"?

Therefore in light of the above as I would request that the FA urgently review this case from top to bottom, answer my complaints and DO THE RIGHT THING in the name of football if an injustice has occurred. I am also taking this matter up with the Aston Villa Supporters Trust.

I would also urge the FA to carry out an urgent review of procedures whereby panel members can hold undisclosed conflicts of interest and make decisions that can effect who professional football clubs are able to sign in transfer windows. That is a matter of great concern to all football supporters which ever team they support.

Yours Faithfully,

(Name withheld for privacy)

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