A-League star’s Covid wages claim

SOCCER: NOV 22 A-League Rd 7 - Western Sydney v Melbourne City
Daniel Lopar was previously signed to the Western Sydney Wanderers. Picture: Speed Media/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Former Western Sydney Wanderers goalkeeper Daniel Lopar has failed in his bid to be paid out nearly $500,000 for a failed contract after he was forced to go back home to Switzerland during the Covid pandemic.

Lopar had been contracted to play for the A-League club during the 2019-20 season and was anticipated to sign on for two more seasons.

The 39-year-old returned to his home county while the A-League was on hiatus during the pandemic before returning to Sydney in October 2020 to start training for the 2020-21 season.

Western Sydney Wanderers 2019/20 A-League Headshots Session
Daniel Lopar was previously signed to the Western Sydney Wanderers. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

While the pandemic was in full force, Wanders management had worked with the club’s players to renegotiate contracts for the 2020/21 season.

In court documents lodged in the NSW Supreme Court, the club stated all of its players – including Lopar – had agreed to a 15 per cent cut to their 2020-21 season contract.

Lopar claims he never agreed to this cut during contract discussions for the 2021-22 season, according to court documents.

From September to December 2020, the club paid Lopar 85 per cent of its contractual salary payments.

The goalkeeper then requested the club pay out the remaining 15 per cent of his contract for the 2020-21 season in December 2020.

The club refused and Lopar took the matter to the National Dispute Resolution Chamber, an arbitration panel designated to resolve disputes between clubs and players as well as between clubs and Football Australia.

In August 2021, the NDRC, which was set up by Football Australia, determined the Wanderers should pay Lopar $464,427.55.

That decision was brought to NSW Supreme Court after the club argued the initial ruling was not made in accordance with the NDRC regulations.

SOCCER: NOV 22 A-League Rd 7 - Western Sydney v Melbourne City
Goalkeeper Daniel Lopar was playing for Western Sydney Wanderers during the 2019-20 season before Covid-19 impacted the season. Picture: Speed Media/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

The club’s lawyer Franco Corsaro SC argued that the decision of the NDRC panel was not enforceable because it had failed to appoint a panel chair before the hearing started.

Mr Corsaro said while a panel chair was ultimately appointed before the decision was handed down, this went against NDRC regulations on fair proceedings, according to court documents.

He also stated the make-up of the panel was also in contention.

Football Australia and NDRC together argued that the “composition of the panel was a minor defect in the NDRC proceedings” and the lack of a chair didn’t change the conduct of proceedings.

In his judgment on Friday, NSW Supreme Court Justice Mark Richmond found the NDRC determination “was not final and binding” because it wasn’t made in accordance with its own regulations.

Justice Richmond said the Wanderers had no obligation to pay the sum initially owed to Lopar.

He also ordered the defendant to pay the club’s court costs.

Lopar ultimately departed the club prematurely in December 2020 having played 20 matches during his sole season

He went onto sign with Swiss Club SC Bruhl in 2021.