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Ebi Smolarek: “FIFPRO member unions make each other stronger”

FIFPRO Members News
23 February 2022
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One year ago, two player unions became a member of FIFPRO, while another was introduced as a candidate member. One year on, we look back with these three unions. This week, Polish player union PZP.

“We are not really a new union. We have been around for 25 years and we have been a FIFPRO member for most of those years,” Ebi Smolarek, the PZP President, told FIFPRO. Due to governance issues, the Polish union was suspended for two years, until they made their return as a FIFPRO member in February last year.  

“I think we are doing well. We have 3,000 members, our relationship with other stakeholders is very good at this moment, and our players are being paid on time.”  

According to Smolarek, a former Poland, Feyenoord, and Borussia Dortmund player, the situation in Polish football has changed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “I noticed that clubs have less money to spend, but on the other hand, they are also allocating their finances more realistically. Salaries might be lower, but they are paid.” Previously, there were clubs that offered much higher wages, but in the end couldn’t respect that contract because they lacked the finances. “That’s a positive change.”  

With Covid-19 restrictions slowly but surely disappearing in Poland, Smolarek can finally start scheduling player visits again, which was put on hold since the Omicron variant outbreak in November. “It is always great to meet players. You can explain to them what you are doing and at the same time you listen to them, learning what their wishes are and what kind of help they need.” 

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Ebi Smolarek together with national team players Agata Tarczyńska (left) and Ewa Pajor (right)

“We received a lot of requests for information about education, especially from second division players. They are hoping to combine their football career with a study. We can help them, by offering courses and studies, and arranging a discount on tuition fees of up to 40 percent. A lot of players are studying right now. We offer a variety courses for all levels, from university studies to courses about how to become a warehouse worker or forklift driver.”

Though the pandemic created numerous problems, it also had a positive effect, noticed Smolarek. “We managed to be out there a lot; players and media knew how to find us. When clubs were about to reduce player salaries by 50 percent, we gave the players our legal advice, that clubs could not enforce such a reduction. Then, we helped numerous players prepare how to negotiate with their clubs.” 

“It helped build our reputation. The players know they can reach out to us for help.” 

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Smolarek enjoys being back with FIFPRO. “The added value of being a FIFPRO member is that you make each other stronger. The unions help each other. There are various Spanish players in Poland. If they have any questions or problems, they can also come to us, because we are collaborating with AFE, our Spanish player union.”  

“That is the power of FIFPRO.”  

“I am looking forward to an upcoming meeting with other countries from Eastern Europe on April 5 and 6. Most of us are dealing with the same problems, we all have limited staff and budget, and we all want the best for our players. We can exchange experiences and best practices, which makes those meetings invaluable.”