FIFPRO introduced an 18-person board, the most diverse in the global player union’s 56-year history, during its General Assembly in November 2021.
Across the Board aims to profile all 18 board members. Next: Peru's Fernando Revilla, one of the most-experienced FIFPRO board members with 15 years of service.
• Played for seven clubs in Peru, including Sporting Cristal and Defensor Lima
• Co-founded and developed the Peruvian player association
• Master’s degrees in business administration and sports management
• One of the most-experienced FIFPRO board members with 15 years of service
How did you become one of the founders of the Peruvian Association of Professional Footballers?
I had been a centre forward for 10 years at seven clubs in Peru, retiring quite early at the age of 30, in 1996. By then I was pretty fed up with the abusive treatment and bad conditions. Several clubs still owe me money even today. There was one club, for example, that would hire 50 players in a year and then coolly fire 20 or 25 of them, without any consequence. There was a complete disregard for the players as professionals. I took a break from football and worked in the commercial department of a chain of department stores for four years. Then I took a master’s in business administration in Madrid to further my career. When I came back to Peru, some former team-mates were starting a player association and wanted some help. There were only three of us at the start. We started from zero and had to do everything. For three or four months of the year, we travelled around the country to let players know what we were doing. It was a gamble on my part on an organisation (known today as SAFAP by its Spanish acronym) that was just starting up and did not have any resources. There was not really a salary. I got some money for the petrol and not much more.
How long did it take for the association to become established?
We had a lot of meetings with clubs, the league and federation to try and modernise Peruvian football and the rights of players. But the discussions never went anywhere. So, at the end of 2003, we organised the first player strike in Peru. We stopped playing for two months. For the first time, the league did not finish that year. (The championship was only decided later with a three-team competition). The strike was a watershed moment. Players realised the importance of their association and today 100 percent of players in the Peruvian championship are members of SAFAP. A lot of what they have today is because of that strike. The clubs began to pay their debts to players, we created a standard contract and the benefits that came with them being considered employees. We achieved a collective bargaining agreement and dispute-resolution panel. Since then, we have grown as an organisation. Today, we have nine employees, and work on a part-time basis with specialist lawyers and coaches for out-of-contracts players. Politically, we are very strong. Since last year we have had a say in the executive decision-making of the national football federation. Financially, we would like to be stronger, but we do a lot despite limited financial resources.
What was your first experience of being a FIFPRO board member?
I was elected at a general assembly in Mexico at the end of 2006. There were just seven of us on the board at that time, and I was the only one from outside Europe. The idea was for me – and then the other board members who later joined me from Asia and Africa – to explain what football was like outside Europe. It was complicated, to be honest. There was little understanding in Europe of what things were like in South American football. It took us a long time for us to understand each other because we had such different perspectives. There was also a language barrier. After some time, we began to understand each other, and then the communication flowed more easily. My other role at the time as a board member was to travel around the Americas and meet other player associations to see how they operated, support their development, and explain the requirements if they wanted to become affiliated to FIFPRO.
What are your objectives today as one of three South American board members?
Many of the player associations in South America – eight are currently affiliated to FIFPRO – have made a lot of progress. The big challenge today is to reach agreements with the regional confederation: Conmebol. We have started with promoting the value of education together, but there are other important areas for us to explore, such as developing a relationship between the players and the match delegates who oversee the games at international competitions.