Mind the Gap conference: Delegates discuss player welfare

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FIFPRO hosted a project-ending ‘Mind the Gap’ conference about athlete career planning and welfare for more than 100 player development managers.

The online conference was the culmination of a three-year campaign led by FIFPRO and co-funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ program.

Delegates heard about the main achievements of the project which focused on: i) defining the role of player development managers, or PDMs ii) establishing personal development programmes and iii) integrating PDMs in player associations.

Five new PDMs were appointed at FIFPRO-affiliated player unions, and two training courses were held. A PDM tool was developed, and three research reports and a handbook were published as future guidance.

The growing importance of player development was highlighted during the conference. FIFPRO deputy general secretary Simon Colosimo (pictured above) said the role of PDMs is becoming more important, extending from advising footballers on what to study to encompassing mental health awareness.

“The personal development manager has gone from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have',” Colosimo said. “For all the elements outside football, the PDM is the conduit for players.”

Alberto Colombo, deputy general secretary of football’s European Leagues, said PDMs also have an important role to support young players in small and medium-size leagues who may not have as successful career as they would like.

Matteo Zacchetti, a sport policy officer at the European Commission, noted the elevated risk of unemployment caused by the covid-19 pandemic. “Dual careers for athletes is at the heart of Erasmus+ and our policy work on sport,” he said.

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Mind the Gap panel led by Guy Taylor, of Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme

Exchange of best practice was also an important part of the project. Chris Higgins, a PDM at Scotland’s Professional Footballers Association, told how he prepares players for “ups and downs” and makes them aware of skills they can take to a second career. Emma Burrows, a PDM at Ireland’s PFA, described a mentoring scheme through which former players help current footballers.


Picture (top): Simon Colosimo, now FIFPRO deputy general secretary, during a training session of Australia's national team in 2005.