- The report has been produced in collaboration with leading sporting intelligence agency Twenty First Group (TFG) and represents the most comprehensive public analysis of the AFC Champions League
- The analysis, which contains extensive data and feedback from players and clubs, weighs the costs and benefits for clubs and players participating in the AFC-organised competition
- With a new competition format introduced from next season, the AFC Champions League Elite, the report suggests a new partnership between the players, clubs and Asia’s football governing body will deliver a sustainable model for all stakeholders
A new report from FIFPRO Asia/Oceania analysing the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) flagship club competition, the AFC Champions League (ACL), has delivered extensive insights into the experiences for players and clubs participating in the competition.
The report, undertaken in collaboration with leading sporting intelligence agency Twenty First Group (TFG), provides an evidence-based assessment of the ACL’s performance and examines the likely impact of reforms announced by the AFC for the 2024/25 season onwards.
Combining expert analysis, independent insights and direct feedback from players and participating clubs, the comprehensive report illustrates that much of the competition’s costs and burdens fall on clubs.
Extensive travel across a vast continent and mid-week matches contribute to players' already-rising workload, which in turn is impacting clubs’ domestic form, the report reveals. The financial subsidies provided to clubs by the AFC do not cover the costs clubs incur, particularly for long-haul away trips.
The report demonstrates the geographic, sporting, economic and workload challenges of the competition for players and clubs, and recommends the AFC establishes a genuine partnership that delivers a more sustainable model that rewards all stakeholders.
“This report analyses the merits and drawbacks of the current AFC Champions League based on various data and the results indicate that the merits do not outweigh the drawbacks for most players and clubs, making it an unsustainable system,” said FIFPRO Asia/Oceania Chairperson Takuya Yamazaki.
“However, this does not mean that the future of football in Asia is bleak. On the contrary, we believe that this economically significant region can lead a discussion for truly sustainable competition formats.”
Jerome Perlemuter, General Secretary of World Leagues Forum, which represents professional football leagues on a global level, said collaboration between all stakeholders in the Asian region would help shape and deliver sustainable competitions.
"FIFPRO’s contribution to shaping the future of Asian continental competitions is most welcome," Perlemuter said. "Sustainable football development requires confederations, leagues and players to work together with a common objective to shape high potential continental competitions in a consistent global calendar. In this context, it is important to consider economic, geographical and cultural specificities. We look forward to continuing these discussions with FIFPRO and all stakeholders."
The AFC has announced significant reforms to the competition, which will be relaunched as the AFC Champions League Elite from the 2024/25 season. This includes major changes to the number of teams, the structure of play and the hosting arrangements for the final rounds.
The AFC Champions League Elite kicks off with the preliminary rounds in July 2024, while the league stage gets under way in September. The AFC has announced increased prize money for the two finalists and tweaks to other regulations, though full details have not yet been released.
To download the report, see here.
- Romanian Football Federation (FRF) abolishes rule that requires minor players to sign with team that trained them
- The nation’s player union AFAN welcomes the "historic win"
- Minor players in Romania will finally enjoy freedom of movement and can negotiate fair contract, with rule coming into effect from 1 July 2024
Young players in Romania can now decide which club they will sign their first contract with, after player union AFAN convinced the Romanian Football Federation (FRF) to abolish a rule that 16- and 19-year-old players are required to sign a new contract with the club that trained them. The change will come into effect from 1 July 2024.
"This is a historic win," said AFAN President Emilian Hulubei. "This rule was in place when I was a youth player," the 45-year-old added.
The rule limited players’ freedom of movement and right to negotiate fair contract terms. Players also had to accept what the club offered them.
Sixteen-year-old players had to sign a three-year contract with a minimum salary of 800 lei (approximately USD 175) and if their club offered them a new contract before they turned 19, they had to accept it as long as the minimum salary was equal to a certain amount: USD 550 for first division players, USD 440 for second division players and USD 330 for third division players.
"When players refused to sign the contract, they risked a two-year suspension and a financial penalty," said Hulubei.
Because of this rule, clubs could retain youth players against their will and then try to release them against a transfer fee payment. "Clubs didn’t care about the players’ careers," Hulubei said. "Players at smaller clubs could not move to better teams because bigger clubs were not always willing to pay transfer fees. Unfortunately, too many players left football because of this."
The player union had been fighting this practice for years. "When I started working at AFAN in 2007, we were already trying to abolish this rule," said Hulubei. "We started many procedures against clubs. We even tried to have this practice banned by labour law, but five years on the law is still pending in parliament."
Starting last summer, the player union held various discussions with the football federation to change this regulation. In December both parties reached an agreement, which was accepted by the federation’s executive committee in late January.
"I think the FRF and the clubs understood that this rule was no longer sustainable when two 16-year-old players who had been suspended for two years after refusing to sign a contract with the club that trained them turned to CAS being supported by AFAN and FIFPRO," Hulubei said. "Even though the case is still pending, the FRF and the club already annulled the suspension. However, the players have suffered losses that need to be compensated which explains why AFAN and FIFPRO keep supporting them in their appeal."
Hulubei concluded: "The FRF and the clubs must have realised that we can be successful at CAS, which will have financial consequences for them as they risk having to pay compensation and the costs for the procedure. If we win, we could bring many more cases to CAS, which could prove very costly for the clubs. I think this helped them realise that they should better abolish this rule. Now, young players finally have the freedom to find the best opportunity for their career."
- The report draws on player interviews, a survey of 41 national player unions and media reviews
- The use of flares or missiles are of particular concern, but violent acts also include players being attacked by pitch invaders or victimised from the stands
- Abuse and violence have alarming repercussions: 88 percent of unions said the threat of violence leads to poor performance by players, and 83 percent said that it contributes to mental health issues
A new FIFPRO report highlights the scale and impact of violence and abuse by fans towards professional footballers in the men’s game, while suggesting measures to increase workplace safety and protect player well-being.
FIFPRO Men’s Football Workplace Safety Report: The Impact of Violence Towards Footballers in Their Workplace draws on player interviews, a survey of 41 national player unions and media reviews; the report is underpinned by an academic research paper by Dr Joel Rookwood, Director of the Sport & Exercise Management degree at University College Dublin.
While 85 percent of player unions agree that “in most instances the relationship between fans and players is very positive and should be cherished,” 76 percent said that workplace safety is a growing concern for professional footballers and 66 percent felt that in recent years parts of fan culture have “become increasingly more violent and abusive.”
The survey findings are supported by a Council of Europe committee state monitoring report published in November under the Saint-Denis Convention that says the number of arrests at sports events, and in particular football top tier leagues, “are considerable and can be considered a growing issue”.
The use of flares or missiles are of particular concern, but violent acts also include players being attacked by pitch invaders or victimised from the stands with verbal abuse that can be discriminatory or aimed at family members. Many “hidden instances” of abuse go unreported amid a normalisation of threats and acts of aggression.
Players often silently accept aggression and do not talk about it in case it exacerbates the abuse and prejudices their employment opportunities. A player interviewed by the report’s authors said he felt that “constant access to the real me as a player has lowered the threshold for fans in the stadium to a point where some think they are entitled to do things which they really aren’t.”
Abuse and violence have alarming repercussions: 88 percent of unions said the threat of violence leads to poor performance by players, and 83 percent said that it contributes to mental health issues.
Unions would favour increased use of technology to catch and deter perpetrators: 98 percent said tech devices such as security scanners and facial recognition would make players safer; 88 percent said more should also be done by clubs to ban violent fans, while most agreed more steps should be taken to foster dialogue with fans about the impact of abuse and violence on player well-being.
Alexander Bielefeld, FIFPRO Director of Global Policy & Strategic Relations (Men’s Football), said: “We cannot continue to allow a culture in which footballers are the victims of unchecked and normalised aggression in their working environment: on the pitch, during team travel, at training grounds, official events, and in their private lives.
"Given the mounting levels of violence, it is important football stakeholders, social partners and public institutions increase cooperation to identify measures that ensure the safety of players, staff and spectators. Clubs, leagues, and federations have a responsibility to ensure that players, as employees, have a safe working environment to perform at their peak.”
This report has been developed by FIFPRO Player IQ, a player-focused knowledge centre that aims to help shape decision-making in the football industry to protect and improve the careers and working lives of professional footballers.
- CAS ruled that the Football Federation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FECOFA) committed a denial of justice against former international Yves Diba
- Diba had filed a claim in relation to an employment contract dispute and, with it being of a national dimension, he had no choice but to file his claim with FECOFA
- Faced with this silence and inaction, Diba turned to CAS in July 2022 and filed a claim against FECOFA for denial of justice
A significant decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled in favour of a Congolese footballer who had previously been denied justice due to the lack of a sufficient National Dispute Resolution Chamber (NDRC) in DR Congo.
In a recent award, CAS ruled that the Football Federation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FECOFA) committed a denial of justice against former international Yves Diba.
In October 2021, Diba filed a claim in relation to an employment contract dispute he had with AS Vita, a club in DR Congo’s top-flight. With the dispute being of a national dimension, Diba had no choice but to file his claim with FECOFA, who, as per its own statutes, were obliged to adjudicate.
Despite several written reminders sent by Diba, FECOFA failed to formally open a procedure in order to pass a decision. Faced with this silence and inaction, Diba turned to CAS in July 2022 and filed a claim against FECOFA for denial of justice.
CAS sided with the 20-time DR Congo international and ruled that such an unjustified delay in passing a decision constituted a denial of justice. They ordered FECOFA to promptly deal with the claim to swiftly render a decision and ruled that FECOFA must pay all costs in relation to the CAS procedure.
FIFPRO Legal Director Roy Vermeer said: “Yves Diba’s experience is not an isolated case – denial of justice is a recurring issue faced by too many players in too many national football associations.
“A number of national football associations around the world do not provide for national dispute resolution chambers that respect players’ rights, and too often the chambers that exist on paper are actually not operative.”
A lack of a proper NDRC can have severe consequences for players at domestic level, leaving them forced into a system that does not guarantee fair proceedings. It can mean abusive behaviour can go unchallenged and breach of contracts are allowed to flourish in complete impunity.
Vermeer said: “If a national football association creates an NDRC, it must simply ensure that it complies with the principles established by FIFA. This not only protects players’ rights, but also provides for a healthy football economy and ecosystem.”
- FIFPRO President David Aganzo and Legal Director Roy Vermeer spoke at latest IntegriSport 3.0 event at the National Police Complex in Madrid, Spain
- President Aganzo presented from a player perspective the issues of match-fixing in Spain
- “What we must do at all times is protect the players, who are often the victims in these situations,” said Aganzo
FIFPRO President David Aganzo and Legal Director Roy Vermeer were both present at the latest IntegriSport 3.0 Awareness Raising Practical Session (ARPS) at the National Police Complex in Madrid, Spain last week. The event was organised by CSCF Foundation for Sports Integrity along with the Spanish National Centre of Police for Integrity in Sports and Betting (CENPIDA).
More than 100 officials from various departments of Policia Nacional and the country’s Ministry of Interior gathered in the Spanish capital for practical seminars on tackling sport manipulation.
Speaking on a panel alongside AFE Secretary General Diego Rivas and Head of Legal Services Maria Jose Lopez, FIFPRO President David Aganzo presented from a player perspective the issues of match-fixing in Spain, where he also serves as AFE President, and the need to protect players.
Aganzo said: "Unfortunately, match-fixing and sport manipulation is a problem at both national and international level. It is complex, and many players are susceptible to being a target for organised crime.
"Things are very different for footballers today compared to how it was when I was a player: there is much more education, and there's more to learn from other athletes in other sports like basketball. Not all players have access to this knowledge, so that is where we as unions provide support.
"What we must do at all times is aim to protect the players, who are often the victims in these situations, and it is something that both FIFPRO and AFE are wanting to eradicate."
Meanwhile, Vermeer discussed how match-fixing affects footballers using the case studies of Samir Arab, Igor Labuts and Ofosu Appiah, and how players can be protected through education, good governance, and reporting tools such as the Red Button app.
What is IntegriSport 3.0?
Integrisport 3.0 is a project established by CSCF Foundation for Sports Integrity to provide theoretical and practical support for law enforcement and judiciaries in Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Romania, and Spain, co-financed by the European Union, on fighting sport manipulation.
The inaugural awareness-raising practical session marked the commencement of this project and the 15th edition of the successful Integrisport program, reaching nearly two-thirds of EU countries' law enforcement and judiciaries in the last four-and-a-half years.
CSCF Foundation for Sport Integrity Director Norbert Rubicsek said: "Our dedication to upholding the purity of sports has propelled us to organise this ground-breaking event. We firmly believe that by fostering cooperation among all stakeholders, we can forge a resilient framework to combat sport manipulation and safeguard the values that make sports so special."
- The Global Labour Agreement (GLA) establishes three distinct labour initiatives to provide a forum for international social dialogue
- The committees are dedicated to player health and safety, as well as sustainable football market development
- More information can be found on the website dedicated to the GLA between FIFPRO and World Leagues Forum (WLF)
Under the international bargaining framework between football’s league and player unions, World Leagues Forum (WLF) and FIFPRO have today agreed to establish three new labour initiatives with a view to strengthening and protecting national leagues and playing conditions.
Last year both organisations signed the Global Labour Agreement (GLA) at the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland to take greater responsibility as social partners, strengthen collectively agreed solutions in the football industry, and contribute to its viability and growth.
The Global Social Dialogue in Professional Football
A shared commitment to take greater responsibility as social partners and provide collectively agreed solutions has now contributed to the creation of three distinct labour and market initiatives to address ongoing challenges of the football industry.
1) Workplace Safety & Health: Committee on Workplace Security
The Committee on Violence in Football Stadiums is established to address and mitigate instances of violence that jeopardise player safety. The committee's goal is to find ways to promote security and workplace safety within stadiums, matchday environments, training grounds and online by developing strategies, protocols, and initiatives.
2) Committee on Health and Fair-Play Pitch Management
The Committee on Health and Fair-Play Pitch Management is established to address challenges related to how the Laws of the Game and their implementation affect match operations and the playing experience on the pitch, as well as for spectators and broadcasters.
3) Committee on Combatting Discriminatory Incidents in Football Matches
The Committee on Combating Discriminatory Incidents in Football Matches is established to address incidents of racism and other forms of discrimination during football matches on a global scale. It operates in the context of general occupational safety and health guidelines to protect workers and commits to ensure a workplace free of discrimination and abuse.
Each of the committees will feature an equal number of representatives nominated by the World Leagues Forum and FIFPRO.
Speaking of the new labour initiatives, World Leagues Forum President Richard Masters said: "In professional football, collectively agreed solutions play a crucial role. The Global Labor Agreement, set up by leagues and player unions at the international level, provides a framework to address the challenges in the football industry together. We are confident that the actions carried out within this agreement will improve the governance of world football."
FIFPRO President David Aganzo said: "The new labour initiatives represent our joint commitment to address the development of our competitions and employment conditions through collective dialogue. The new working structures are marking a start and we are eager to address other issues that are relevant for the growth of leagues and players together."
A website dedicated to the new international bargaining framework under the GLA provides more information and can be accessed HERE. From news updates and documents to GLA governance and labour initiatives, the website provides further information of the organisations’ respective commitment to promote and protect the basic principles of collective industrial relations between the representatives of employers and employees.
- 18 September marks International Equal Pay Day, raising awareness about unequal pay to women and pushing to close the gender pay gap
- FIFPRO, members unions and women’s internationals helped secure equal regulations and conditions, and a fair redistribution of prize money for Women’s World Cup players
- While the first step on the pathway to equality has been taken, for many players the fight for fair and timely payment has just begun
On UN Equal Pay Day, FIFPRO reaffirms its commitment to fighting alongside women all over the world to ensure there is equal pay for equal work.
The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup was a breakthrough on the pathway to equality, with the introduction of per-player performance-based prize money and equal conditions.
Ahead of the Women’s World Cup FIFPRO, its member unions, and 150 international footballers from 25 countries stood united in the largest piece of collective action undertaken in women’s football which helped secure equal regulations and conditions, fair redistribution of prize money to players, and a pathway to equal prize money at the tournament.
The collective action achieved:
1) Player prize money allocation
Each individual player at the Women's World Cup was allocated performance-based funding. Every player at Australia/New Zealand earned at least USD 30,000, with players from the winning team each receiving USD 270,000.
2) Equal conditions
The conditions and service levels offered to each team at the 2023 Women’s World Cup were identical to those at the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar.
- The delegation size for all PMAs was set at up to 50 people;
- Each delegation had the option of accommodating players in single or twin rooms, or a combination of both, according to their preferences;
- Identical processes to men's World Cup for class of international travel, level of in-competition domestic travel, implementation of team base camp concepts, and standard of accommodation were in place.
3) Increased prize money
In addition to doubling to USD 31m the preparation funding already distributed to all PMAs, an additional total pot of USD 110m was allocated to the Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 that was distributed to teams on the basis of team performance at the tournament.
The path to equal pay
While the first step on the pathway to equality has been taken, for many players the fight for fair, timely payment has just begun.
That is why, on this UN Equal Pay Day, we celebrate the achievements and progress made, but more importantly we focus on what is ahead – pay equity for the men’s and Women’s World Cup in 2026 and 2027, and continuing to raise the floor for players globally.
What the players said
Alex Morgan (USA): “I'll continue to challenge the systemic norms that exist today, so that we do have an equal seat at the table – and part of that is the working conditions for the World Cup. As the women's game grows, as accessibility and visibility grows, and as our fan base grows, we do expect to see the result of that – which is better working conditions, more compensation. That’s a big piece of it, but we need to start somewhere.”
Lucy Bronze (England): “In every single country in the world, there's still something missing or something that could be done a lot better. The fact we've got that collective goal means that together we feel that common goal – and everybody knows that strength comes in numbers. When we inspire each other, the voice becomes louder."
Ali Riley (New Zealand): "I believe that we as women’s players deserve the same conditions as our male counterparts – and we're working hard to prove that. Having equal pay at the World Cup would be one step in the right direction."
FIFPRO fully endorses the statement of Spanish player union AFE in calling for immediate action to address the conduct of Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales and is calling for investigation of his actions under FIFA’s code of ethics.
We reiterate that it was deeply lamentable that such a special moment for the players of the Spain national team taking place before a global television audience should be stained by the inappropriate conduct of an individual in a role carrying so much responsibility.
Uninitiated and uninvited physical approaches towards players are not appropriate or acceptable in any context, and especially not when they are put in a position of vulnerability by a person who holds a position of power over them in their workplace.
- Power to the Players is a comprehensive vision for the transformation of football in Asia/Oceania
- Aims to channel unprecedented interest in the region, as demonstrated by 2023 Women’s World Cup, by positioning players at the heart of the sport
- Framework has five key objectives: player organising, member unions, bargaining, diversity, and innovation, data and alliances
FIFPRO Asia/Oceania has launched a new strategic framework for the division: Power to the Players, a comprehensive vision for the transformation of the football industry in the region.
The framework aims to channel the unprecedented interest in the sport in Asia/Oceania, as demonstrated by the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, by positioning players at the heart of the sport.
Launched at the division’s bi-annual congress in Auckland, the framework sets forward a path to build on the outstanding efforts of generations of players and member unions by elevating the players’ voice to achieve positive impact.
Designed to play a leading role in supporting FIFPRO’s global reform agenda, the framework has five key objectives:
- Player Organising and Mobilising: building and embedding a strong culture of organising across the region;
- Member Unions: enhancing all member unions throughout the region;
- Bargaining and Leverage: Building effective relationships with strategic partners such as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC);
- Diversity: Promoting the diversity of FIFPRO Asia/Oceania’s members while pursuing a workplace for players that is free from all forms of discrimination and risks to players’ human rights;
- Innovation, Data and Alliances: Commitment to proactively shaping the future of Asian and Oceanian football through evidence-based research, analysis and partnerships.
FIFPRO Asia/Oceania Chairman Takuya Yamazaki said: "The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup has shone a spotlight on the immense talent and potential within Asia and Oceania, whilst also exposing the enormous challenges faced by players. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we ensure our players are given the support and representation they deserve.
"A legacy of this transformational Women’s World Cup will be stronger representation for all footballers. We plan over the next three years to build stronger unions, enhance player organising and effective relationships to deliver better outcomes for players and the game."
Anna Green, NZPFA's representative on FIFPRO's Asia/Oceania Division board, an-82 time New Zealand international and Sydney FC defender, said: "The interests of the players and the game are inherently linked. Our mission is to enhance all of our unions across Oceania and Asia and ensure that the players’ rights are protected and respected.
"This is the starting point for the players having greater impact and transforming football across the region into a workplace that deeply respects and protects the rights of players."
Download the framework HERE.
As football governance enters a critical phase, FIFPRO and European Leagues have announced a manifesto to embed collective governance standards and agreements throughout the professional game.
- Slovenian player union SPINS filed a criminal complaint against Olimpija Ljubljana and club’s management
- The union said the club bullied, harassed and humiliated four players
- FIFPRO strongly supports the Slovenian player union and condemns any unlawful behaviour by football clubs aimed at forcing players to terminate or change contract terms
Slovenian player union SPINS has filed a criminal complaint against the country’s reigning champions Olimpija Ljubljana and the club’s management. Slovenian labour law protects workers by providing legislation against discrimination, termination of contracts for unfounded reasons and workplace bullying.
According to SPINS, four players – Pascal Estrada, Marko Mijailovic, Rui Pedro and Mustafa Nukic – were bullied, harassed and humiliated by Olimpija Ljubljana.
They were banned from training with the first team to either force them to agree to a contract extension (Estrada and Pedro) or with terminating their contract (Mijailovic and Nukic). The players were not allowed to attend the first team’s training camp in Turkey and had to train with the U-19 team in Slovenia. To justify the players’ absence from the training camp in Turkey, they were ordered to undergo Covid tests or MRI scans without apparent reason.
SPINS noted that at several press conferences the club openly spoke about mistreatment of players, putting the club’s interest above the law and beyond binding provisions in the closed standard contract, which state that all professional players in Slovenia have to train with the first team at the same time and place, under the guidance of the first team coach and without any discrimination.
FA rules also forbid any abusive conduct of a party aimed at forcing the counterparty to terminate or change contract terms. After several reminders to the club were unsuccessful, the Slovenian player union felt it had to resort to the harshest measure available.
The players have recently terminated their contracts by mutual agreement, except for one player, who is still separated from the first team. Marko Mijailovic was forced to terminate his contract by mutual agreement a year-and-a-half before it expired, Austria U-21 international Pascal Estrada left for an Austrian club after payment of compensation, and Rui Pedro signed with a team in Turkey just before the transfer window closed, after the club had turned down several better offers when he was separated.
SPINS and FIFPRO condemn any form of bullying and harassment. This kind of behaviour is damaging to players’ careers and can also affect their mental health. Players who find themselves side-lined for a longer, unknown period, have a limited chance to further develop their careers, and feel humiliated because they have to train with youth teams instead of the first team. All stakeholders need to think about eradicating the systemic failures that give sports clubs the opportunity to carry out such serious breaches of contract and jeopardise players’ careers and health.
- Hungarian player union HLSZ makes positive changes to standard player contract
- Two provisions removed, including possibility to unilaterally reduce salary if player is sent to second team
- Amendments a result of collaboration between European stakeholders and domestic social dialogue
Hungarian player union HLSZ actioned crucial amendments to its standard player contract that have improved the rights of professional footballers in the country.
As part of a social dialogue in Hungarian football, and after requests from HLSZ, the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) decided to remove two controversial provisions from the standard player contract. One allowed clubs to unilaterally reduce a player’s salary up to 50 percent in case of relegation, while the other arranged that a club could unilaterally decide to reduce a player’s salary up to 50 percent when the club decided to send a player to the second team.
Gabor Horvath, the union’s general secretary, welcomes the revised standard player contract, which has been in force as of 1 January 2024.
“This is a very important achievement for us,” Horvath told FIFPRO. “We have often been criticised that the standard player contract in our country was not good.
"Through the years, we have tried to change this and now we can finally say that the Hungarian standard player contract is fully in compliance with the minimum requirements on standard player contracts, as laid down in the agreement signed by European stakeholders, including FIFPRO Europe, UEFA, the ECA and European Leagues.”
Article 47, which allowed clubs to unilaterally reduce players’ salary when sending them away from the first team, was very problematic, according to Horvath. “Players were told that starting tomorrow they couldn’t train with the first team anymore but would have to train with the second or third team, and that their salary was reduced by 50 percent. The clubs could simply decide this unilaterally as a sort of sanction. This could last until the end of season or could lead to a player leaving the club.”
The provision is against Hungarian labour law and against jurisprudence of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) and sports tribunal CAS. The FIFA DRC deemed it “potestative” and “abusive” in various cases.
To realise these amendments to the standard player contract, the Hungarian union invoked the help of FIFPRO Europe, which involved UEFA and the ECA, as both have respective members in Hungary.
“We couldn’t have done this without the help of FIFPRO Europe and the European stakeholders,” Horvath said. “We had tried since 2018 to change the standard player contract but were unable to arrange this with the federation ourselves.
“With the help of FIFPRO Europe, who involved UEFA and ECA, we could finally discuss this with the federation and with some clubs. We had a couple of meetings involving representatives from the domestic and European stakeholders, in a friendly atmosphere, and it was clear to all parties that these two provisions had to be addressed, which made the federation decide to remove them from the standard player contract.”
HLSZ thinks that the collaboration with the European stakeholders will also be beneficial for the union and Hungarian football in the future.
“It is a good example of the power of the social dialogue,” Horvath said. “Being part of a strong international umbrella organisation, that has good relationships with UEFA, the ECA and European Leagues is very beneficial. Of course, we remain committed to any discussion with our domestic social partners, but it is good to know that, if necessary, we can easily involve FIFPRO to help address these issues.”
- The deal with the country’s football association grants Slovenian women’s national team players working conditions and pay equal to those of the men’s national team
- It concluded an almost four-year push by the players and their union to get the deal arranged
- “We are confident that levelling the playing field for the national team will positively benefit the development of this team and the ones that follow,” said co-captain Lara Prasnikar
The players of the Slovenian women’s national team agreed to a deal the Football Association of Slovenia (NZS) which grants them working conditions and pay equal to those of the men’s national team.
Last Friday, Slovenian player union SPINS announced the agreement during a press conference. It concluded an almost four-year push by the players and their union to get the deal arranged.
In July this year, the women’s struggle culminated in a letter they wrote to NZS leadership in which they addressed the significant differences in treatment of the men’s and women’s national teams that had a negative effect on their performance.
The women had to deal with poor conditions and facilities for both training and matches, inappropriate travel conditions, bad preparation, unregulated catering and, above all, the unprofessional behaviour of the national team coach and his staff, who they accused of bullying, sexism, and racism among other things.
Most issues have been addressed by the NZS, which replaced the technical staff and finalised the agreement with the women’s national team that meets the players’ needs.
"We are confident that levelling the playing field for the national team will positively benefit the development of this team and the ones that will follow. Equal treatment of women and men should be a given in today's society," said Lara Prasnikar, co-captain of the national team.
Co-captain Mateja Zver added: "By signing the new agreement, we have set an example for the countries that will follow us. We can all be proud of that."
SPINS President Dejan Stefanovic, who is also a FIFPRO global board member, said: "The letter that the players sent illustrated the unanimity between all of our country’s women footballers. Even before this letter was sent, all women players – national team players and all others – had agreed that in case of a strike action, none of them would accept a call-up to appear for the national team. This was part of a strategy suggested by our colleagues of the Israeli union, especially their chair Karen Sendel."
According to Stefanovic, another crucial step was to involve the Advocate of Principle of Equality. "Things started moving very quickly after the Advocate of Principle of Equality began its investigation into discriminatory treatment of the women’s national team. I am sure that the football association is very worried about a possible verdict and that will have helped with getting this deal done."
Stefanovic advises other player unions looking for equality for their women’s players to take a similar approach. He said: "They should make use of the possibilities in their country by identifying organisations or institutions that can help them, whether that is an Advocate of Principle of Equality as in our case, or for example an Ombudsman for Equality as the Finnish player union (JPY) did a couple of years ago.
"Having achieved this important milestone, the first FIFPRO member in Central and Eastern Europe to do so, we are also aware that there is still is a long way to go before women’s players in Slovenia enjoy the same level playing field as the men’s players. But we will continue working closely with the players to arrange that their treatment is improved and follows global trends."
- Slovenian player union received a letter from the country's Ministry of Labour confirming its labour law prevails over the regulations drawn up by any sports federation
- It is a huge step towards one of the union's main goals: creating a collective bargaining agreement
- "This letter means that the transfer system doesn’t exist any longer in our country," said SPINS President Dejan Stefanovic
Slovenian player union SPINS made a huge step towards one of their main goals: creating a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The organisation received a letter from the Ministry of Labour confirming that Slovenian labour law prevails over the regulations drawn up by any sports federation.
“This letter basically means that the transfer system doesn’t exist any longer in our country,” said SPINS President Dejan Stefanovic, who is also a member of FIFPRO’s global board. “As we have always stated, athletes need to have the same rights as any other worker in Slovenia.”
SPINS had several meetings with the Ministry of Labour to discuss the labour status of professional footballers and other professional athletes in Slovenia, as well as the right to collectively bargain for self-employed athletes. This process for getting more clarity lasted more than a year and resulted in the Ministry’s letter.
The letter concludes: "It should also be emphasised that the cases and conditions of termination of the employment relationship are not and cannot be left to the free and autonomous regulation of the sports federations."
According to Stefanovic this means that players can terminate their contracts the way any other worker does. He said: “Currently, players in our country can’t move because of the FA’s transfer regulations. If they are going to terminate a contract, then they don’t know what kind of compensation they are going to have to pay. So, they don’t move.
“This letter puts clear pressure on the clubs coming from the top authority in our country, which says that sport autonomy cannot be above law, and that any kind of termination of the contract is subject to law and not subject to the regulations of the Slovenian FA. That is crucial.”
With the letter in hand, the union wants to start negotiations with the clubs and finally conclude a valid CBA, in which they can jointly decide on conditions that could be deviating from labour law. Stefanovic said: “We know that the clubs would like to have a transfer system in place because they are dependent on transfer fees coming in, and we know that many clubs use these transfer fees to pay player salaries. So, we should try and find a compromise, and agree on conditions in a CBA.”
Stefanovic continued: “We are taking away the autonomy of the sports federations in Slovenia. As clubs and players, we are going to decide on the conditions for breach of contract and all other issues, that affect our work and workplace. This can’t be regulated by the football association. They can decide on match regulations and similar subjects, but any matter that involves working conditions is going to be a subject of the CBA.”
Ever since SPINS was founded in 2003, the union strived for a CBA. “We have already secured very good legal protections for our players with the closed standard players’ contract that we introduced in 2018,” said Stefanovic. “But we are still having problems with compensation for training and transfers, while many of our players are also self-employed.
“With a CBA, we can further raise the players’ level of protection, and solve all other issues for players. At first we will probably not get everything but, in the end, we will have a CBA that will be the one of the best in the world.”
Stefanovic advises other unions to “follow the law” in their country. He said: “Talk with labour inspection, talk with the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Sport, the government, or the president. Just follow the law and ask the same principles to be applied to athletes as they are to any other workforce in the country.”
- FIFPRO presented preliminary trends of workplace safety and violence report at fourth meeting of the Committee on Security and Safety at Sports Events
- Council of Europe’s Saint-Denis Convention is committed to making football matches more safe, secure and welcoming
- Ninety-five percent of football’s player unions agree violence and abuse is a workplace health and safety issue that needs specific regulation to enforce player protection
FIFPRO presented the preliminary trends of its upcoming Player Workplace Safety: Abuse & Violence report at the Committee on Safety and Security at Sports Events at the Palais de l’Europe in Strasbourg, France.
The committee is the monitoring body of the Council of Europe’s Saint-Denis Convention, which FIFPRO declared its wish to become an observer, with the core aim of making football matches and other sports events more safe, secure and welcoming. Current observers include the likes of FIFA and UEFA.
The Saint-Denis Convention protects and promotes the human rights of all participants at football matches and other sports events, including the right of players to work in a healthy, safe and secure environment.
FIFPRO Europe President David Terrier and FIFPRO Director of Global Policy & Strategic Relations (Men's Football) Alexander Bielefeld provided a player-centric perspective on workplace health and safety through the lens of football’s player unions.
"Safety in the workplace is a fundamental right that almost every profession enjoys through international conventions and national policies. However, since the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen a dramatic rise in violence and abuse against players at their place of work: the pitch, the stadium, the changing rooms, the bus ride to the match, the training ground and even online," said Terrier.
"We want to be a partner for stakeholder dialogue to strengthen collective solutions and ensure workplace safety for professional players and all other participants."
Under the international bargaining framework between football’s league and player unions, World Leagues Forum (WLF) and FIFPRO recently agreed to establish three new labour initiatives with a view to strengthen and protect national leagues and playing conditions. One of these committees is focused on violence and safety at football matches.
According to FIFPRO’s preliminary trends of its workplace safety report, players and unions fear that the pitch and the extended working environment are becoming increasingly hostile:
- 95% of unions agree violence and abuse is a workplace health and safety issue for players and needs specific regulation to design and enforce player protection;
- 98% of unions believe technology could be better used to reduce the threats posed by violent or abusive fan behaviour. This includes personalised tickets (78%), entrance scanners/detectors (73%) and facial recognition cameras (68%);
- 71% of unions say that players are worried speaking out could lead to more abuse on social media or risk employment opportunities;
- 88% of unions believe that abuse and violence has a significant impact on player performance.
"Until now there has been no or little work done to understand the issue from a player-centric occupational health and safety perspective. That is why we have undertaken an extensive global research project, analysing instances of violence towards players in the workplace. Our findings show that football wants action," said Bielefeld.
"While we continue to finalise this work, we hope that it will contribute to a wider debate on the normalisation of abusive behaviour associated with parts of football culture."
- FIFPRO Europe collaborated with UEFA to deliver the first edition of UEFA’s Minimum Standards Framework for Women’s National Teams
- Framework outlines how national associations should have transparent policies on responding to harassment and discrimination, as well as expenses and remuneration, parental and pregnancy rights, and the handling of player data
- Example of how involvement of players, unions, national associations and confederations can help shape better conditions for national team football
FIFPRO Europe collaborated with UEFA to deliver the first edition of UEFA’s Minimum Standards Framework for Women’s National Teams – ensuring senior women’s national team players in Europe receive better environments and safeguards.
The framework details how associations have a duty towards players to provide “quality care and sporting conditions to ensure their welfare and wellbeing” while on national team duty.
It also states how coaches must serve the interests of women’s national team football and promote sporting excellence, that national associations should ensure optimal training facilities and the most direct available travel routes for players, and that cooperative agreements which foster regular engagement should exist between associations and players.
Governance provisions in the framework outline how national associations should have transparent and collaboratively agreed policies on responding to harassment and discrimination, as well as on expenses and remuneration, parental and pregnancy rights, and the handling of player data.
An annual incentive of up to EUR 100,000 is allocated to each UEFA national association to implement the minimum standards for the next four years.
FIFPRO Europe President David Terrier said: "The close cooperation between FIFPRO Europe and UEFA has been instrumental in shaping this landmark initiative.
“We are committed to further strengthening our relationship with UEFA for the benefit of players throughout the continent. FIFPRO Europe remains dedicated to advancing European football as a whole."
UEFA's Managing Director of Women's Football Nadine Kessler said: “The announcement of the framework marks a crucial milestone for women’s national team football, made possible through the positive collaborative spirit of all involved.
“Bringing the national team captains and FIFPRO Europe into the development of such a project was essential and we are convinced that it has led to a better outcome for all. This project promises a huge impact on the women’s game by providing players with the best possible conditions to perform.”
Frameworks core objectives
- Improve conditions and environments for national team players throughout Europe;
- Support all national associations by providing the best care and environments for players on duty for the national team;
- Protect national associations and players alike through greater transparency and good governance of national teams;
- Increase the sporting level of all nations in international competitions;
- Foster stakeholder relations between national associations and players.
Malta women’s national team captain Emma Lipman said: "Being involved in the meetings and discussions on the framework was an opportunity for me as a player to positively shape the game.
"I look forward to the framework being implemented, and I’m happy that the initiative will continue to have the players at the heart of it. It’s a big step forward for national team football in Europe."
FIFPRO’s Director of Global Policy & Strategic Relations Women's Football Sarah Gregorius said: "This framework is the latest example of what can be achieved when a player-centric perspective that actively involves the player voice is established and enshrined. Players are empowered to both participate in, and choose their elected representatives in, these conversations, solidifying and protecting their rightful role in the dialogue.
"Women’s national team players, and the sport more broadly in Europe, will significantly benefit from these important changes that provide safeguards and improved conditions for players – taking women’s football on an important next step in its overall continued development."
FIFPRO Europe, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA, England) and the Union Nationale des Footballeurs Professionnels (UNFP, France) welcome UEFA’s decision not to apply the new guidelines around additional stoppage time to European competitions.
This decision shows UEFA have listened to the players and their unions.
"This is an excellent player-centric decision which will make a difference for footballers across Europe," said FIFPRO Europe President and UNFP Vice-President David Terrier. "The fruitful cooperation with UEFA underlines our shared commitment to enhancing player welfare.
“This collaborative approach fills us with confidence for the future relationship between UEFA, professional players, and their respective unions.”
PFA CEO and FIFPRO board member Maheta Molango said: “Player workload is the number one issue when I speak to members at clubs who will be competing for club and country. It is totally unsustainable. It’s clear they are having to make really difficult decisions about how to protect their own health and fitness.
“The comments from Zvonimir Boban [UEFA’s Chief of Football] show that he gets it. From his own experience he understands the player perspective and the fact that this is ultimately a player wellbeing issue. I will keep saying it – we can’t keep pushing the players until they break.”
- Report released with guidelines and mitigation strategies for hot conditions in professional football
- Series of studies show national team players unanimously agreed that hot and humid conditions made performance difficult during matches
- Eleven 'Hot Tips' that should be considered by governing bodies, competition organisers, and more to better protect players’ health
FIFPRO has released a report with guidelines and mitigation strategies for hot conditions in professional football.
Following several high-profile international competitions played in hot conditions, a series of cross-sectional studies showed that national team players and managers unanimously agreed that hot and humid conditions made performance difficult during these matches.
The report contains 11 ‘Hot Tips’ that should be considered by governing bodies, competition organisers, clubs, staff members and players to better protect players’ health.
“The human body maintains a constant core temperature that usually ranges from 36.1°C to 37.8°C – and in extreme heat, players are at risk of suffering from heat-stress disorders such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat strokes,” said FIFPRO’s Chief Medical Officer Prof Dr Vincent Gouttebarge.
“To prevent or mitigate this risk and thus to protect players’ performance and health, better guidelines relying on the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT), or on the ambient temperature, should be implemented and enforced.”
FIFPRO’s position on extreme heat
At present, FIFA guidelines state that if there is a WGBT of more than 32°C (89.6°F) cooling breaks are mandatory in both halves of a match, around the 30th minute and 75th minute. The decision on whether to suspend or cancel the match is at the discretion of competition organisers.
FIFPRO believes that these guidelines do not do enough to protect the health and performance of players and recommend among other things that if there is a WBGT between 28-32°C, cooling breaks should take place around the 30th minute and 75th minute. If there is a WBGT of more than 32°C, training and matches should be rescheduled.
FIFPRO’s 11 Hot Tips
- Heat guidelines should be adopted and respected by football stakeholders, clubs and national teams for matches and training and embedded within regulations (e.g., minimum medical requirements, laws of the games, collective bargaining agreement for national competitions; FIFA competition regulations, social dialogue).
- Heat guidelines should refer to thresholds for WBGT (especially in elite professional football) and ambient (in case a WBGT measurement device is unavailable) temperature to increase their understanding and global implementation across all levels of professional football.
- A WBGT above 26°C (or ambient temperature above 30°C) should warrant cooling breaks during matches (e.g., at approximately 30 minutes in each half of a match).
- A WBGT above 28°C (or ambient temperature above 36°C) should lead to the delay or postponement of matches until conditions for players and officials (and fans) are safer.
- WBGT (and/or ambient temperature) should be measured on-site before each match and training session (e.g., two hours), and consultation between key stakeholders (e.g., players, coaches, match officials, team physicians) about potential risks should occur.
- National and local weather forecasts should monitor the weather conditions (e.g., at least five days before each match) and estimate potential hot conditions to schedule matches (and training) optimally and provide players with a safe environment.
- Next to additional cooling breaks, other mitigation strategies (e.g., heat acclimation/acclimatisation, cooling methods, easy availability of cool drinks all around the football field) should be planned and used for matches and training, with responsibility for their implementation resting with teams and individuals involved.
- Stakeholders (international, continental, national) and television broadcasting companies should not schedule matches at the hottest time of day, that means avoiding mid-day or afternoon matches (i.e., full sunshine) where high WBGT is most likely.
- A (inter)national registry of heat-related collapses and/or deaths should be developed to assess their prevalence, explore the underlying contributing factors, and improve existing guidelines and mitigation strategies.
- While players’ responses (e.g., physiological, cognitive) when exercising in hot conditions have been extensively studied, more research is needed to understand (i) how thresholds (WBGT and/or ambient temperature) in heat guidelines could evolve, (ii) how mitigation strategies, including potential modification of the laws of the game and heat acclimation/acclimatisation, could be optimally implemented and enforced in practice, and (iii) how new technologies might enable the assessment of personal factors (e.g., metabolic rate, thermoregulatory function) and contribute to the prediction of the risk of heat-related illnesses.
- Particular attention should be given to female and youth players with regard to individual responses when exercising in hot conditions or when it comes to avoiding television broadcasts of their matches at mid-day or in the afternoon (i.e., full sunshine).
- Launched in 2019, Drake Football Study is a 10-year project tracking the physical and mental health of footballers
- Over 170 men’s and women’s players were included in the study, beginning during their playing careers and transitioning through to retirement
- Dr Lervasen Pillay, one of the PhD candidates working on the study, talks to FIFPRO about the first published data connected to knee and hip osteoarthritis in men’s players
The first data results from the 10-year Drake Football Study have now been published. Launched in 2019, the Drake Football Study is tracking the physical and mental health of around 170 men’s and women’s footballers – beginning during their playing careers and transitioning through to retirement.
The project’s first findings, based on studies on men’s professional footballers, showed a low prevalence of knee and hip osteoarthritis (degeneration of joint cartilage); that pain is a valid symptom to suggest osteoarthritis presence; and that the chances of developing knee osteoarthritis increased with the number of injuries by 1.5 times and just over four times more with surgeries.
"This is good news for footballers as further research now can be done on developing management guidelines and determining if any other risk factors for osteoarthritis exist in this population," said Dr Lervasen Pillay, who has been practicing in the field of sports medicine for 19 years and has been involved in the Drake Football Study since October 2021.
Most previous research in knee and hip osteoarthritis has been conducted on retired athletes using only X-rays, whereas these latest findings have been determined using validated questionnaires and clinical examinations on active players.
"New information is always helpful to stimulate further research," said Dr Pillay. "It gives us a better understanding of the association of osteoarthritis with risk factors (like injury and surgery), pain and function in the active professional footballer.
"In the real-world setting, this translates into providing clinicians with more information to allow for improved management of their athlete’s condition – in this case osteoarthritis."
Learning from the players
The former Chief Medical Officer of the South African Premier Soccer League, Dr Pillay’s involvement in the Drake Football Study stems from his combined PhD with the University of Pretoria and University of Amsterdam.
While the 10-year study is giving priority to joint pain in ankles, hips and knees of players, and how it can potentially impact the wellbeing of players in the long-term, it also aims to explore mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression which are often reported by players.
"Part of this study is to identify whether there is an association between mental health symptoms and severe injuries and surgeries," said Dr Pillay, who has been monitoring the analysis of men’s players during the study.
"The mental health component of professional male footballers has always been neglected. Through the study, we will be able to collect data on the prevalence and incidence of mental health symptoms and learn if there are associations with risk factors of players developing mental health symptoms."
Coordinated by FIFPRO, the Drake Football Study is seed-funded by The Drake Foundation and supported by Amsterdam University Medical Centres, Mehiläinen (Finland) and Push Sports (The Netherlands).
FIFPRO Chief Medical Officer Prof Dr Vincent Gouttebarge is the project lead together with Prof Dr Gino Kerkhoffs, chair of the Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine department at the Amsterdam University Medical Centres.
As well as the length of the research and its focus on active players during their careers and transitioning through to retirement, what also sets the study apart is learning directly from the players.
"We are exploring data received from players themselves – the athletes voice is vital," said Dr Pillay. "The study also involves cohorts which aren’t European based, which helps give a global perspective.
"Since all the sub-studies are investigating the active professional footballers, it provides an opportunity for developing better identification and management guidelines of certain conditions.
"Studies looking at neurocognitive function and ankle cartilage may provide new information that has not been described in this population before, and thus begin a new research interest angle. I am excited about the entire project and its potential impact over the next 10 years."
- With major decisions ahead, event brings together player unions and leagues
- FIFPRO’s Jonas Baer-Hoffmann to call for urgent remodeling of football governance
- Premier League, Eredivisie and Superliga among stakeholders participating