FIFPRO introduced an 18-person board, the most diverse in the global player union’s 57-year history, during its General Assembly in November 2021.
Across the Board aims to profile all 18 board members. This time, we talk with Louis Everard, the director of Dutch player union VVCS (Vereniging van Contractspelers).
- General director of Dutch player union VVCS since 2005
- FIFPRO board member since November 2005
- Member of ICAS
- Single Judge of the FIFA Players’ Status Committee
- Sports and Law degree from University of Leiden
How did you get involved with a trade union for football players?
Louis Everard: When I had just graduated, I ended up at the largest sports marketing agency in the Netherlands, which also had a commercial sports agency, via my professor. There I learned a huge amount in over three years. Through that job, I met Theo van Seggelen, the then VVCS president. We regularly had incredible arguments because I worked for a commercial organisation and he worked for the union. In 1993, Theo asked if I wanted to join the VVCS as a legal officer. At the VVCS, I started doing more and more, and when Theo officially joined FIFPRO as secretary general in 2005, I became the director of the VVCS, and got a position on the FIFPRO board.
Can you mention some of your accomplishments with the VVCS?
We managed to make the VVCS financially sound, partly through our successful partnership with the Soccer Vision agency. For years we had heaps of files on our desks from players who had not been properly assisted by their agents and whose problems we had to solve. We thought: how about doing this work ourselves in an effective way? That worked out extremely well. Partly as a result of this extra income, we have greatly expanded our services for players, for example through our career portal, Team VVCS for out-of-contract players, our tax return service, debt counselling, our helpline for problematic gambling and our own financial coach.
One of our initiatives I am very proud of is the VVCS Academy, which allows players to study online at their convenience, even from abroad. We started in 2007 with seven players and we now have between 140 and 160 taking courses or studying every year. You can find our graduates at management or board level in many Dutch professional clubs. We are currently in talks with FIFPRO to explore whether we can also roll out the VVCS Academy internationally for FIFPRO members, as our courses are fully certified in Europe.
I am also proud of our collective bargaining agreement. In October, we reached an agreement in principle to extend it until 2027. We had accelerated the negotiation process as a tribute to the director of the Federation of Clubs, who was in poor health and sadly passed away a few days after the agreement was signed. It did illustrate the fact that we have had a very good relationship with our social partners for many years, and actually with all our stakeholders. For example, we are constantly around the table with the KNVB, our football federation, and we are on excellent terms with the clubs.
What is your vision for FIFPRO?
FIFPRO is there for the unions. It is very important that FIFPRO should be there to serve its members. At the same time, it has to keep an eye on their quality. As an organisation, you are only as strong as your weakest link, so it is FIFPRO's job to further develop its member unions where necessary. In my view, every union should be able to stand on its own feet financially and offer free legal assistance to its players at every level. The latter is a basic requirement.
It is also important that unions at least have a relationship with stakeholders, that players are recognised as employees and not required to be self-employed, and that our unions introduce a standard player contract in their countries. I regularly see contracts of players we have assisted abroad that I find shocking because they contain such nasty clauses. Unions that have not yet reached this stage should receive support from FIFPRO to develop further.
I am a strong supporter of FIFPRO as a knowledge centre. Its legal department is a perfect example. All members can call on the team’s knowledge. They are splendidly assisted by Roy Vermeer, Loic Alves, Alexandra Gomez Bruinewoud, Pauline Bove and Ivo Ouwehand.
FIFPRO's number one priority is that the contracts of all the 60,000 professional footballers we represent are fulfilled and their salaries paid. I don’t care how, whether we do it with the aid of FIFA or UEFA or obtain the help of politicians, as long as it happens. I think we need FIFA’s help with that. There are different ways of helping, though. For example, FIFA could make it clear to all its members that all contracts in their country should be respected. If not, there should be adverse consequences for that country. A good relationship with FIFA is indispensable. We cannot do without them, and the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players are the foundation of professional football. The creation of the Dispute Resolution Chamber is an excellent example of how the players and their unions have gained influence in dispute resolution through FIFA. That has been a great step forward. Hopefully we can achieve more of these soon.
Earlier this month, I was appointed as a member of the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS). The purpose of this body, in particular, is to oversee the independence of CAS. I have a pretty solid list of things we want to change. I will mention just a few: a drastic reduction in arbitration fees to be paid to CAS in player cases, as they are currently a barrier to players accessing this court, a proper legal aid fund for players, and CAS publishing its awards faster. I am the first FIFPRO representative on ICAS, which is another step forward for our organisation.
What gets you excited about your job?
There hasn't been a day I’ve been bored. That’s because players know how to surprise you all the time and because with the VVCS we are constantly taking on new challenges. And I also like discussions. I may have become a bit more moderate, the chairs no longer fly across the room, but I am as passionate as ever. I have had incredibly frequent discussions with club officials and I look back on them with pleasure. Some people shy away from heated discussions; I never do, because you are fighting for the players’ interests and without a fight you achieve nothing.