For professional footballers facing unfair dismissals, salary cuts and the uncertainty of lockdown, player unions are acting as a vital support system by fighting for the collective rights of members and providing personal assistance.
FIFPRO leaders spoke today of the increasingly important role of player unions during the covid-19 pandemic as they opened an unprecedented online General Assembly in the midst of severe disruption to the football industry.
In his opening remarks, President Philippe Piat praised the ongoing work of player unions which have “never hesitated to lend a hand” to footballers during the extraordinarily challenging times of the last 12 months caused by pandemic.
“We have come a little closer to the players because they have never needed us so much,” Piat said in the online address to union representatives from 64 countries. “This social role is an integral part of our mission.”
Membership of some national player unions has risen sharply as more and more footballers, facing unilateral salary cuts and hardship, understood more than ever the need for a strong union to represent them collectively.
“In a time of crisis, the spirit of the players to act together has increased,” General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said. “Player unions have become more relevant than ever.”
Baer-Hoffmann also acknowledged the outstanding work of players and unions to help their wider communities during the pandemic. Some of them will be recognized with the FIFPRO Merit Award during the course of the online assembly.
Even with the challenge of working remotely, FIFPRO staff have increased legal and political support for player unions during the last year, and continue to provide ongoing expertise and guidance on health and career development.
Assembly agenda: from mental health to match calendar
Following a sharp rise in footballers reporting symptoms of depression symptoms, staff will unveil a tool kit that will help unions support footballers suffering from mental health problems, and develop a wider care network for them.
In a series of workshops, union representatives will also receive an update on the application of groundbreaking maternity regulations in women’s football, and ongoing support to help unions prepare members for life after football with inspiring education and career advice.
They will hear about the global rollout of the Red Button App, a mobile-phone application that allows professional footballers in more than 50 countries to safely report match-fixing approaches anonymously, thus avoiding the danger presented by criminal gangs.
There will be a presentation of a new digital platform FIFPRO is developing to track workload for players that will help industry stakeholders work towards a more balanced match calendar, benefitting footballers at different levels of the game.
FIFPRO welcomed representatives from national associations Polski Zwiazek Pilkarzy from Poland, and Footballers and Allied Workers Union of Zambia, which were both confirmed as new members, extending membership to 64 player unions.
Professional Footballers Association Canada, which will also attend the assembly, has become a step closer to becoming a member after obtaining candidate status.
The online general assembly runs through Friday February 19.