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Forming teams of their own: The dramatic emergence of player associations across the globe

World flags on footballs
Thursday, 26 January 2017 By Braham Dabscheck

In 1974 the Brookings Institution published a volume edited by economist Roger Noll entitled Government and the Sports Business.[1] In a chapter on "Labor[2] Relations in Sport" James Scoville observed that "player associations are almost as old as professional sports".[3] His major concern was examining their impact on the respective labour markets of the Big Four of American sports, baseball, basketball, American football and (ice) hockey.

This paper contains an Appendix entitled "An Imperfect Register of Player Associations: November 2016". It provides information on the name, year of formation of player associations and their membership, or otherwise, into different types of federations/confederations. Distinctions are made between associations of employees and independent contractors.[4] There are also a small number of amateur associations who, broadly speaking, operate in a similar way to player associations. As explained in the Appendix, broad references to respective websites are provided rather than the full referencing associated with scholarship, because of reasons of space.

The Appendix enables us to be precise in identifying the player associations in existence when Scoville made his observation. In 1973, there were 29 player associations operating across the globe. Eleven were in Football/Soccer (eight in Europe, three in South America), six in North America (the Big Four in the USA, plus Rodeo Cowboys and Canadian Footballers), Jockeys[5] in the USA, Canada, France, England and Ireland, two in Cricket (England and West Indies), Baseball players in Japan, French Cyclists, Finnish Basketball and players of Australian Football. The oldest continuous association is England’s Professional Footballers’ Association, formed in 1907.[6] In 1965, five Football associations from France, Scotland, England, Italy and the Netherlands formed the first ever players’ federation, the International Federation of Professional Footballers’ Associations (FIFPro), "to co-ordinate the activities of the different players’ associations and indeed to represent the interests of the professional players…[and] to have contact with FIFA".[7] 

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Braham Dabscheck

Braham Dabscheck

Braham Dabscheck is a Senior Fellow, Faculty of Law, University of Melbourne, Australia.

Previously, he taught industrial relations at the University of New South Wales for 33 years until 2006 and established himself as an international expert in the field. Among his extensive publications are almost 80 book chapters and articles on industrial relations, economic and legal aspects of sports in Australia, Europe (including the United Kingdom), Japan, New Zealand, the United States and Zimbabwe.

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