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Top European players unions were in Madrid on Monday for the European Sports Forum to send a strong message to the European Commissioner responsible for Sport, Androulla Vassiliou, that European athletes must be covered by EU laws that protect workers’ rights.


The players’ unions won’t accept a special application of EU law for sport and are protesting their apparent exclusion from a ‘bilateral’ dialogue between the EU and the Olympic and Sports Movement that could allow the O.S.M. to bypass the European Social Dialogue process and has already undercut the European Social Dialogue in football.


Theo van Seggelen, secretary general of FIFPro Division Europe, the association of professional footballers, knows all about that: ‘Already four years ago the partners reached an agreement about the minimum requirements for standard football player contracts. But with the exception of FIFPro, up until today no party involved is willing to sign this agreement. It seems that it is very difficult to accept the legal consequences of the European sectoral social dialogue in the football sector.’


‘The European Commission cannot allow event organizers to hijack the sport agenda by granting their wish for an exclusive dialogue,’ warned Bernadette Ségol, the Regional Secretary for the recognized employee social partner in the Sport sector, UNI Europa.


‘The proper place to deal with the important issues like minimum labor standards, anti-doping rules, intellectual property rights, sports betting, agents and sport health and safety issues is either in the European Social Dialogue or in an informal dialogue with the E.U. that includes unions as important stakeholders,’ Ségol said.


Yves Kummer, the President of the European Elite Athletes Association, a federation of players unions representing 25,000 athletes, agreed. ‘We have been working hard the past few years to develop the European Social Dialogue for Sport and this is the proper place to handle many of the ‘specificity of sport’ issues on the table here in Madrid,’ he said. ‘If the Commissioner will send a strong message to the Olympic movement regarding E.U. law and the importance of the European Social Dialogue, we believe that a lot can be accomplished in a relatively short time.’


Jose Luis Llorente, Vice-President of the Spanish federation of players unions, Asociacion de Deportistas, welcomed all delegates to Madrid. ‘We must stand together for the fundamental rights of athletes as citizens and employees in Europe to ensure that they are protected. The law is the law,’ he said.