Goalie fails in COVID-19 wages claim from A-League team

Melissa WoodsAAP
Former Western Sydney Wanderers goalkeeper Daniel Lopar has lost his legal bid against the club. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)
Camera IconFormer Western Sydney Wanderers goalkeeper Daniel Lopar has lost his legal bid against the club. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

Swiss goalkeeper Daniel Lopar has failed in his court bid seeking almost $500,000 in unpaid wages from his former A-League Men club Western Sydney Wanderers.

Mr Lopar claimed he did not agree to a pay cut for the 2020-21 season, despite travelling back to his home country amid the coronavirus pandemic and not playing a match.

He played for the Wanderers in the 2019-2020 season and just before the pandemic the club extended his contract to keep him on until the end of the 2021-22 season.

Following the impact of COVID-19, the 39-year-old departed the club prematurely in December 2020 having played 20 matches during his sole season.

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The matter was heard by the National Dispute Resolution Chamber, a panel of arbitrators designated to resolve disputes between clubs and players, as well as between clubs and Football Australia.

The chamber determined the Wanderers should pay Mr Lopar $464,427.55, which the A-League club went on to dispute in the NSW Supreme Court, with Football Australia a co-defendant.

In court, the Wanderers said Mr Lopar did agree to a pay cut and paid him on that basis, claiming the arbitration panel made the wrong decision.

The club's lawyer Franco Corsaro SC argued the decision of the arbitration panel, which was appointed by Football Australia, was not enforceable.

He noted a panel chair was not appointed until after the hearing had taken place and before the decision being handed down. The make-up of panel was also raised.

Solicitor Armando John Gardiman, who is a partner with major club sponsor Turner Freeman Lawyers, appeared as a witness in the court during a hearing in July.

He raised concerns with the ruling of the panel on the basis he understood two of its members represented players' union Professional Footballers Australia.

"I understood there needed to be an independent chair, a representative of Professional Footballers Australia and a representative of Football Australia," he said.

In his judgment on Friday, NSW Supreme Court Justice Mark Richmond found the chamber determination wasn't final and binding because it wasn't made in accordance with National Dispute Resolution Chamber regulations.

He said the Wanderers had no obligation to pay the sum and ordered the defendants to pay the club's costs.

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