Bobby Barnes

Bobby Barnes: "FIFPRO has to present solutions for the game and the players"


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Bobby Barnes
Bobby Barnes

Bobby Barnes

After 14 years Bobby Barnes has stepped down from FIFPRO’s global board, as well as Division Europe board, with PFA Chief Executive Maheta Molango taking his seat. This is his farewell message.

I am sixty-years of age now and I have three grandchildren. I've spent my life travelling, getting on planes, and spending half of my week in different countries. The time has come for me to spend some more time with my family. I want to see my grandchildren grow up.

I also felt that with the changes at the PFA and with Maheta becoming the CEO, that it was important to give Maheta the space to bring FIFPRO what he has to offer.

I arrived at the PFA in 2000 after I quit playing. During my career, I studied business and financial management. I joined PFA Financial Management together with Brendan Batson and stayed there for about three years. Gordon Taylor, the CEO back then, asked me if I wanted to set up a London office for the PFA, which at the time only had one in Manchester. I was the first employee of the London office in 2003 and helped build it into the PFA’s headquarters with a staff of 20 people.

In the early days, I was fortunate because I was going into the dressing rooms and meeting with players. My main responsibilities were the relationships I had with Premier League players and a lot of them became international stars.

It was particularly satisfying that the PFA had – and still has – good relationships with the Premier League and the Football Association (FA). We are treated as equal stakeholders in the decision-making processes and that has been of great benefit.

I've long believed that, as a union, it's not just about protesting or highlighting the problems – it's about trying to make conditions better and being part of the solutions. We managed to work closely on issues such as health, education and ensuring the continuation of their hard-won contractual rights, to improve the wellbeing of our members and to improve English football.

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Bobby Barnes with 2019 PFA Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk

One example: during the Covid-19 lockdown, we worked closely with the government and other stakeholders. The government wanted to provide the general population with a return to normality, the Premier League wanted to respect TV contracts, and we wanted players to be able to train and play safely. We all collaborated and, for me, it was hugely satisfying to be part of that process.

My satisfaction comes from deals that I've done which many people don’t know about. I don't need to have my name in the newspaper or on the television. I take great pride in that.

Joining FIFPRO

I joined FIFPRO in 2009 as a global board member and became Division Europe President in 2013. I think the relationships we've built over the years with FIFA, UEFA, the World Leagues Forum, and other stakeholders will be very important in the future.

When I first joined FIFPRO, we weren't invited into the room. But we were able to develop that over the years.

Having said that, we must get more influence. If FIFPRO can replicate the relationships the PFA has had with its stakeholders, with their own stakeholders such as FIFA and UEFA, it would benefit FIFPRO hugely. FIFPRO can't stand alone as an island, just make statements and criticise the situation. We have to make a positive contribution and help find solutions for the good of the game. A successful game is good for clubs, for leagues and, most importantly, for players.

Bobby Barnes GA
Bobby Barnes

It is also important that we have leverage. The Premier League and the FA know the PFA has a very strong relationship with the players. FIFPRO has been working on that as well by setting up the Global Player Council. FIFPRO needs to make sure that players in the big countries not only speak out on behalf of their union, but also on behalf of FIFPRO.

At the PFA, we recently brought all captains together, such as Jordan Henderson, Harry Maguire and Cesar Azpilicueta, to meet with FIFA President Gianni Infantino and talk with him about the international match calendar. They sent a very strong message that they were not in support of a biennial World Cup and want to have more influence on the match calendar.

The FIFPRO Family

FIFPRO has been a family to me. Every single member – whether it’s in Division Africa, Asia, everywhere – are all friends and colleagues. One of my greatest joys was coming to our general assembly every year and meeting colleagues from different countries and sharing experiences with them. We were all very privileged to see the world, go to some wonderful places for our congresses and come together in our common aim: to look after players.

I made many good friends. In all the years I was at the PFA and FIFPRO, I had clashes, I had disagreements with colleagues at the other stakeholders, but I'm proud of the fact I didn't make any enemies. I'd like to think that everybody I worked with found me to be honourable, honest and fair.

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Bobby Barnes with FIFPRO Africa President Geremi

In December, I wanted to say goodbye to the board of Division Europe, but due to bad weather I didn't get to Amsterdam until 11.30 at night. Yet, when I walked into the hotel, the entire board had waited to say goodbye to me. Theo van Seggelen and Philippe Piat were also there. I don't cry very often, but the fact they all took the time to travel and say goodbye to me, it really touched me.

I just hope that everybody doesn't lose sight of the fact that without solidarity, FIFPRO is nothing. The big countries have a responsibility to help the smaller countries, and the smaller countries have a responsibility to respect the bigger countries. FIFPRO will only ever be as strong as its weakest link.

The work of the generation of Gordon Taylor, Gerardo Movilla, Leonardo Grosso, Phillipe and Theo has led to great progress at FIFPRO. I've made a small contribution myself and I hope that the current generation take their responsibility seriously, and realise how precious and how important FIFPRO is and must continue to be in the future.

As long as FIFPRO fights to stay relevant, looks after players and continues to make sure that its voice is heard with the stakeholders, then we can continue to be successful.

I don’t want to depart without thanking everyone in the FIFPRO family: all members, the administration, the staff, the interpreters. I wish you all success in the future.