WFS Asia 2023

FIFPRO and member unions provide player-centric voice at World Football Summit Asia


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WFS Asia 2023
  • World Football Summit Asia event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia marked the first since FIFPRO and WFS signed content partnership agreement last month

  • FIFPRO Deputy General Secretary Simon Colosimo, a former Australia international, shared a player perspective on the emerging markets within the region

  • Player workload also in focus via panel discussions, while FIFPRO Division Asia/Oceania host workshop to share preliminary findings of their upcoming AFC Champions League report

Representatives from FIFPRO and member unions were present at the latest World Football Summit (WFS) on 12-13 December to provide a player-centric voice on a host of industry issues. 

WFS is a platform that connects over 100,000 decision-makers in the football world to generate new business opportunities and shape the future of the game.

The latest event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia marked the first since WFS and FIFPRO Player IQ signed a content partnership agreement under which the world player union’s cutting-edge research and insight will feature at WFS events in Europe, Asia and Americas for the next three years.

FIFPRO Deputy General Secretary Simon Colosimo was one of the keynote speakers on a panel looking at the recent growth in transfer activity to the Asian region.

Colosimo, a former Australia international who played club football in various AFC nations such as Australia, Malaysia and India, discussed the need for rapidly emerging markets to be sustainable for players.

Simon Colosimo WFS
Simon Colosimo

“One of the key aspects to having a sustainable league that can challenge is to ensure that domestic players across the region benefit from the same conditions and expertise as the foreign players that are coming to the region,” said Colosimo. “By doing that, you are creating stable jobs and ensuring that player protections are in place.”

Colosimo also highlighted that emerging leagues, including those in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have an opportunity to develop a playing calendar that prioritises the health of footballers.

He said: “We’re seeing leading footballers in Europe playing upwards of 70, 75 games a year, which is just unsustainable. In Asia, many leagues are growing. The challenge is then: how does the AFC’s continental competitions add to the domestic leagues to ensure that we have the best players and the best clubs from across the region playing in conditions that respect the players?”

FIFPRO Asia/Oceania will early next year release a report on the AFC Asian Champions League which provides a comprehensive analysis of the proposed reforms to the premier continental club competition in Asia, and their expected impact on players.

Professional Footballers Australia Co-Chief Executive Beau Busch and Head of Research and Policy Brett Taylor hosted a workshop in Jeddah to share the preliminary findings of the research. Supporting them was FIFPRO Asia/Oceania Chairman Takuya Yamazaki, who was present throughout the event engaging with stakeholders on behalf of the division.

A safe match calendar that protects players’ health

Player workload was very much in focus at WFS with Busch later speaking on a panel which shined a spotlight on the excessive physical demands placed on elite players. A former professional who played in Australia and Scotland, Busch stressed the need for more collaboration and coherence to ensure the health of elite players is protected.

Busch said: “What we’ve seen over the past three to five years is a significant increase in the workload associated with players, particularly at the highest levels of the sport, and they are the ones that generate the significant commercial revenue to allow football to be what it can be.

“It highlights a significant governance challenge in the sport and if we continue to maintain the status quo in relation to the way the game is governed, we’re going to continue to be challenged by this issue.”

Beau Busch WFS
Beau Busch
Simon Colosimo WFS Asia
Simon Colosimo
Michael Leahy WFS
Michael Leahy

Busch was joined by Michael Leahy, a former defender who played professionally for over a decade in the League of Ireland before embarking on his current role at FIFPRO managing strategy and intelligence for men’s football and Player IQ.

Leahy highlighted four key elements that FIFPRO wants to see improve in order to help protect the health of elite players against overload:

  1. Guaranteed season breaks (four weeks off post-season)
  2. Reduced international travel
  3. Reduced total match load
  4. Limitation on consecutive back-to-back matches

“What we refer to as ‘back-to-back matches’ is when players play a game within five days of the previous match,” said Leahy. “Medical science indicates that a player is not fully recovered from the previous game until five days afterwards; playing before that point, particularly on a continuous and consecutive basis, puts players at a much more susceptible risk to injury.”