Share this quote

Magnus Erlingmark 1

People of the Union puts the spotlight on individuals across FIFPRO’s member associations who are dedicated to improving the wellbeing of professional footballers in their country.

Magnus Erlingmark, general secretary of Swedish player union Spelarforeningen, talks about his experiences in football, his work with the union and what motivates him daily.

FIFPRO: Tell us about yourself: what is your current role and what is your background?

Magnus Erlingmark: I started playing football like most players at quite a young age. I was six, maybe seven. I also did gymnastics, track and field, bandy  and ice hockey. When I was 15, I still played ice hockey and football, and then my hockey coach helped me decide between the two. There was an important tournament coming up and he asked me if I was going to make a choice between football and hockey. When I said that I didn't know yet, he scratched my name from the list…

I was a versatile footballer. I played every position, including in goal. I played for BK Forward, Orebro SK, IFK Goteborg and Sweden. I won four titles with Goteborg and a bronze medal at the 1994 World Cup with Sweden. I was a team captain for quite some years, as well as a club representative for the union. When I had become a board member of Spelarforeningen, one of the founders, Sven-Olof Hakansson, told me that I should start working for the union after my playing career. And that’s what I did in 2005. First on a part-time basis, next to my job as an accountant. But in 2007, I joined the union full-time as the work interested me.

Magnus 1
Magnus Erlingmark in 1994

What do you most enjoy about the work you do at the union?

That you can help players through informing them, supporting them, educating them. These are often young boys and girls, who are fully focused on football, and they need a lot of support. When we visit the clubs, we speak to the players, listen to what they say and what they need. That is very important because I'm not Spelarforeningen: it's the players, our members, they are Spelarforeningen. We are doing what they need the most, and that’s why we have to be close to them.

What issue affecting player welfare are you most passionate about?

Creating a sustainable career, and not only a football career but also a career after football. It is much tougher to be a footballer today than when I played with all the attention from media and social media. There is much more pressure on players today.

It is important to have something else in life that matters, so that you are not only judged on being a good or a bad footballer. I have seen that many players have become better footballers when they study or do something else besides football, or become a parent. Then suddenly football isn't the most important thing in life.

Magnus 4
Magnus Erlingmark

Can you share one of your proudest achievements working as a union representative?

I would say the Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) for the men's and the women's league, and for the national team. In 2008, we signed the first CBA for women’s football. In 2019, we started talking about a renewal of this deal, but the negotiations were problematic. The women had to play for almost a year without a deal in place. It was tough for them, but they were so united and patient. They trusted us and the process and, finally last year, we succeeded in getting a new and better CBA.

The power of the collective was decisive. It doesn't matter how good you are as a negotiator, you can only succeed if the players are committed, united, and supporting you. If you use that power, then you can change working conditions. It is the same as in football: if you work together as a team on the pitch, then you have a good opportunity to win games.

Is there anyone in the union world or in sports in general who inspires you?

I have to think about Marvin Miller, as it was very impressive how he turned the Major League Baseball Players Association into a very strong union, but I also respect Jean-Marc Bosman, as he had the courage to sacrifice his career by standing up for his rights and going to court.

What is your favourite football memory to date?  

It would be the 1994 season, when we played very well in the Champions League with IFK Goteborg, and I won the bronze medal with Sweden at the World Cup. In the Champions League, we were group winners ahead of Manchester United, Barcelona and Galatasaray. Nobody expected that a Swedish team could compete with these teams because of the huge difference in financial possibilities.

What made it so special was the feeling that we had as a team. Everybody trusted each other and put their own ego aside for one big goal. We were in such a flow; it was like magic. Really inspiring. Unfortunately, Bayern Munich eliminated us in the quarter-finals, on away goals after two draws (0-0 and 2-2).

Sweden 1994 World Cup
Sweden celebrate winning bronze at the 1994 World Cup in USA
Magnus Goteborg
Magnus Erlingmark in action for Goteborg
Magnus Erlingmark 5
Magnus Erlingmark in action for Goteborg

Who is your favourite football player ever and why?

I have been a Manchester United fan for many years, although I don't like what has happened in the last decade or so. When I started watching them, my favourite player was Brian Robson. He was a box-to-box midfielder, worked hard, played with passion and power. Maybe he wasn't the most technically skilled player, but he could do many things on the pitch.

What motivates you daily?

That I have the possibility to help our members, to be there for the players if they come with questions, and to prepare them for what's to come both on the pitch and after their football career. We all work for both men’s and women’s football, so whether its Caroline Jonnson, Lotta Schelin, Johan Skoglund, Peter Martinsson, Linus Holmgren or me, we work for everyone. I think it's important for us to have this connection with all the players. And we also tell the players how they can help each other. For example, the men benefited from the last women’s CBA, as the women arranged lower membership fees for everyone. They enjoy helping each other and that is really nice.