Ildefons Lima

The right to freedom of association

Freedom of Assembly Statement

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Ildefons Lima
In a series of recent cases in Andorra, Bolivia and Slovakia, professional football players have received threats and sanctions from their club or federation as a result of interaction with their national player union.

The ‘Shaping Our Future’ report underlines that many footballers are affected by undemocratic governance structures, and it is important for the industry to allow players to collectively bargain.

“Players, together with their elected representatives, have a fundamental right to meaningful representation in the decision-making process,” the report says. “Particularly when it comes to matters that affect their working and employment conditions.”

The following cases are therefore of major concern:

  • Andorra’s football association president said he was removing Ildefons Lima (pictured) from the national team for his criticism of its covid-19 protocol. Lima was speaking in his role as president of national player union Associació de Futbolistes Andorrans (AFA). Without any due procedure where the player could present his defense, he was sanctioned with the indefinite separation from the national team unless he stands down as AFA president. The national team coach has said he would benefit from selecting Lima, but cannot. FIFA rejected a disciplinary complaint made by Lima against the president, without citing its reasoning* Lima has also lodged a claim at national level, which is in process.
  • Bolivia coach Cesar Farias said he did not call several players for the national team for being “too close” with the national player union, Futbolistas Agremiados De Bolivia (FABOL), which has regularly spoken about clubs in the domestic league failing to pay footballers their wages on time. FIFA rejected a disciplinary complaint made by the players made against the coach, without citing its reasoning*
  • Slovakian club FC Nitra fined several footballers more than 5,000 euros for showing their employment contract to their national player union. These players were seeking assistance from the Únie Futbalových Profesionálov (UFP) over non-payment of wages. The club has been reported to the FIFA disciplinary committee, which has not yet ruled on the case.

*In the cases in Andorra and Bolivia, the reasoning of the decision were requested by the players. However, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee refused to provide them with the grounds, saying they were not directly affected by the proceedings. FIFPRO strongly disagrees with this stance and the lack of legal standing is being appealed by FIFPRO in a separate procedure.

Players around the world who are victims of such unilateral decisions are encouraged to contact their member player union or FIFPRO. National and international governing bodies are urgently encouraged to take proper actions on any violation of freedom of association, which is a human right.