DUBAI // Officials at Al Ahli remained tight-lipped last night over reports the Dubai club will be the subject of an investigation by the game's governing body over a contract dispute with David O'Leary, their former manager.
O'Leary was fired last year just months into a lucrative three-year deal with the Pro League club and the former manager of Leeds United and Aston Villa in England has yet to receive the compensation he believes he is due for the two remaining years of a three-year contract.
The matter has now been referred to Fifa.
"I don't have anything [to say] about that," said Ahmed Khalifa Hammad, the chief executive of Al Ahli Football Club.
Roy Aitken, who came to the club as O'Leary's No 2 in 2010 and was then installed as the club's director of football after initially being fired along with his friend, also refused to comment.
"It is not for me to talk about this," Aitken, who worked with O'Leary at Leeds and Villa, said.
In an interview with a UK radio station last June, O'Leary said: "I knew what I was getting into as the club had four different coaches [in quick succession] and that's the way the system works over there."
"It was a hell of a year over there," O'Leary said. "I worked for a great boss [Abdullah Saeed Al Naboudah] and it was a great experience."
Graham Noakes, the head of professional game at the English Football Association, confirmed O'Leary's decision to take legal action.
"Following application from Mr O'Leary's advisers, the FA has referred this matter to Fifa which has the authority to intervene in disputes of this kind," Noakes said.
The English League Managers Association (LMA) is also backing his case.
"David O'Leary has been left with no option but to place his contractual dispute with Al Ahli before the Players' Status Committee/Dispute Resolution Chamber of Fifa," Richard Bevan, the LMA chief executive, was quoted as saying in media reports.
"The LMA is committed to protecting and, where necessary, enforcing the legal rights of its members, and to ensuring that clubs honour their contractual obligations in the all too frequent event of a manager's dismissal.
"Our commitment to this goal is the same whether our member works at home or abroad."
O'Leary was the club's fifth manager since 2009 and his replacement, Ivan Hasek, was fired in November along with his assistant coaches Ludik Lusacek and Nouriddine Mohammed.
Tony Coton, the former Manchester United goalkeeping coach, also left the club last week after negotiating a pay-off on the remaining year of his contract. He was marginalised at the club after Quique Sanchez Flores, the current manager, brought in his own goalkeeping coach.