Time for FIFA to talk about the players, says union

Reuters News
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Posted: May 14, 2016 12:50 PM

By Brian Homewood

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Soccer's world governing body FIFA needs to start thinking about professional footballers and address their problems, according to the general secretary of the World Players' Union FIFPro.

FIFPro secretary general Theo van Seggelen said on Saturday he was still waiting for details on a new FIFA stakeholders committee which will include player and club representatives.

He added that Friday's FIFA Congress had not discussed the many problems facing players worldwide, including the late payment of wages, instead concentrating on reforms carried out to clean up the scandal-plagued governing body.

Van Seggelen, acknowledging FIFA was making progress after a series of corruption scandals, wants to get the new Soccer stakeholders' committee up and running as quickly as possible.

"Concerning the players, FIFPro, we still have a lot of work to do because we still have no clue what is going on with the stakeholders' committee and that for us is very important," he told Reuters following the Congress.

"We think that on soccer matters, the leagues, the clubs and the players have to have a mandate to solve the problems."

Van Seggelen pointed out that, away from the glamour of the big clubs, most professional players were ordinary wage-earners who were sometimes subject to abuse by their clubs.

THE PROBLEMS

FIFPro has regularly complained that, especially in Eastern Europe, players struggle to get paid on time and are sometimes ostracized by their clubs, and forced to train alone, if they complain.

"We have not mentioned the problems in soccer concerning professional players -- overdue payables, players training alone, that sort of thing," he said.

"I understand that there is a right moment for this, but we still have a lot of work to do with FIFA to safeguard the future of professional soccer."

He pointed out that the Congress had also focused on the development of the game in FIFA's 211 member associations, many of which did not have professional leagues.

"It was about amateur soccer and development, which is very interesting but, of course, we need to think about the professionals."

The Dutchman was cautious about FIFA president Gianni Infantino's initiative to hold a think tank with the FIFA Legends team formed of former international players.

"It's always good to respect legends, as we do ourselves, but it is also clear that FIFPro is the only one that can deal with soccer matters, politics," he said.

"Of course, promotion of soccer by legends is okay, but the players FIFPro still need to have discussions with FIFA about our problems."

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)