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Player unions address growing workplace violence issues with football stakeholders


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  • FIFPRO Europe and Cypriot player union PASP led international initiative to bring stakeholders around the table to address the growing problem of workplace safety

  • Player unions from Italy (AIC), Serbia (SPFN) and Greece (PSAPP) gave a player-centric perspective on occupational health and safety

  • Representatives from Council of Europe, Interpol, UEFA, European Leagues and FSE were in attendance at the event in Cyprus

The need for cross-stakeholder collaboration to address the ongoing rise of violence towards players in their workplace was highlighted at a football market development initiative in Limassol, Cyprus on Friday 5 April.

The event, which was organised by FIFPRO Europe and Cypriot player union PASP, brought together key representatives from football bodies such as UEFA and European Leagues, as well as Interpol and the Council of Europe – the intergovernmental organisation that runs the Saint-Denis Committee, committed to upholding safety, security and service at European football matches.

The event in Cyprus focused on how employment conditions in the context of occupational health and safety can be improved, as well as how the sustainable growth of the national football market can be ensured by providing a safe and welcoming environment for players, fans, officials and commercial partners.

PASP and Cypriot stakeholders, which included the Cyprus Football Association, Cyprus Police, government officials and stadium owners, discussed the rise of fan-related violence towards players and potential solutions. It also focused on the Council of Europe's Saint-Denis Convention, which was yesterday unanimously ratified by the House of Representatives of Cyprus.

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Stakeholders gather in Limassol, Cyprus
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Alexander Bielefeld, FIFPRO’s Director of Global Policy & Strategic Relations of Men’s Football
Spyros Cyprus
PASP President and FIFPRO Europe Vice-President Spyros Neofytides

Alexander Bielefeld, FIFPRO’s Director of Global Policy & Strategic Relations of Men’s Football, said: "The current level of abuse in its various forms across the working environments of players is enormous. We need to re-establish a culture of respect and a code of conduct around the game. The current situation harms players as well as the economic development of the game."

PASP President and FIFPRO Europe Vice-President Spyros Neofytides said: "The dialogue between all stakeholders, from competition organisers to clubs, fans, players and public authorities, is critical to improving the situation. The discussions in Limassol have been a starting point and showed that we can take practical steps together to address the situation in Cyprus and across football markets in Europe and beyond."

Players share their experiences

Several incidents in Cyprus of fan violence directed towards players were highlighted at the event, including that of Giorgos Papageorgiou. The Nea Salamis Famagusta midfielder was struck by a pyrotechnic during a cup game against APOEL earlier this year which left him at the time suffering impaired hearing.

Sharing his story on video at the event, Papageorgiou said: “Sometimes we don’t feel safe on the pitch. There are times, for example, when you go to take a corner or throw-in behind the fans, and you don’t know if you’ll be hit on the head or back with an item.

“If you are thinking about what the fans will do, then you’re not 100 percent focused on the game. As players, we want to play in front of the fans – but fans have to follow the rules.”

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Giorgos Papageorgiou

The developing issue of violence towards footballers in their workplace is not just limited to Cyprus, of course, and footballers across the world have voiced their concerns.

Speaking on a Space on X (Twitter) last month, Rangers and Nigeria defender Leon Balogun feels social media has contributed to a rise in abusive behaviour aimed at players in their workplace and says dialogue is needed to help create safer working environments in football.

"I have this feeling that this 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," said the 35-year-old, who is also a member of FIFPRO’s Global Player Council.

"Some people, not the majority, feel because they have paid for a ticket to come to the stadium that it somehow automatically gives them the right to abuse you. There are people who just want to voice their frustration at you in a very inappropriate way.

"It has developed over the last 16 years since I've been a professional. It has taken a turn for the worse with the introduction and rise of social media."

Workplace Safety Report: The Impact of Violence Towards Footballers in Their Workplace

Workplace Safety Report

In January 2024, FIFPRO released the Workplace Safety Report, which highlights the scale and impact of violence and abuse by fans towards professional footballers in the men’s game. The report draws on player interviews, a survey of 41 national player unions and media reviews.

According to the Workplace Safety Report:

  • 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 of player unions said that workplace safety is a growing concern for professional footballers;

  • 66 percent felt that in recent years parts of fan culture have “become increasingly more violent and abusive”.

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. The report can be downloaded in full HERE.