The League Management Company has banned Heartland FC from signing new players in the next two transfer windows following a petition against the club by two former players.
The LMC say the ban relates to two petitions regarding the “unlawful termination of contract and indebtedness filed by two former players of the club, Maduabuchi Okereke and Fatunwase Alfred Olusegun”.
The ban will subsist until Heartland complies with a ruling by the league governing body ordering a total payment of N8.1m to Maduabuchi Okereke and N5.4m to Fatunwase representing the value of the outstanding balances on their respective contracts.
Both players had filed separate claims against the club to the LMC in November 2019 alleging “overdue payables, wrongful termination of contract and compensation”.
While Okereke laid claims for a total of N10,400,000, Fatunwase asked for a total of N6,250,000.
In its ruling on the matter, the LMC held that Heartland FC failed to respond to the claims of the players despite having been invited to present its version of affairs to the league body.
The LMC found that the club had entered into “separate employment contracts (in the form of the NPFL Standard Player Contract)” with both players for the period covering 10 November 2018 to 9 November 2021.
Rejecting Heartland’s claims of having no financial obligations to the players having acceded to the players’ demands to be released from their contracts, the LMC said the “letter of clearance purportedly issued” at the instance of the players lacked any validity and could not be binding because it was signed only by the club’s general manager and not the players.
“[A] contract or agreement must be signed or executed by each party to the said agreement. The fact that the clearance letter was signed only by the Club through its General Manager indicates that it cannot be deemed to be an agreement that binds the Player,” the LMC’s ruling noted.
The LMC said the improper release letter strengthened the players’ claims of wrongful dismissal and contended that the players had sent Heartland separate default notices on 30 September 2019, giving a deadline of 14 days for payment of the claims.
With the club failing to present their version of events as demanded by the LMC, the league body said they “were constrained to determine the case on the strength of the available evidence” and therefore ordered Heartland to pay Okereke the sums of N7, 200,000 representing the remaining two years of his three-year contract and another N900,000 unpaid arrears of three months consolidated salary stipulated in the contract before it was wrongfully terminated by the club.
Fatunwase was awarded N4,800,000 representing the remaining two years of his three-year contract and another N600,000 unpaid arrears of three months consolidated salary as stipulated in the contract before it was wrongfully terminated by the club.
Parts of the LMC ruling sent to Heartland reads: “consequently, pursuant to Rule B9.45.4, the Club is banned from registering any new players in the next two entire and consecutive registration periods , provided that the ban will be lifted immediately upon confirmation that the payables overdue towards the Player are paid.
“If at the end of the period of the ban, the sums mentioned in 19a and 19b above are not paid, the matter shall be duly reviewed.”