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Belgian football has united in a rare agreement that prohibits clubs from isolating players from the rest of the squad, a measure FIFPro would like to see adopted across the sport.

FIFPro has seen dozens of cases of clubs ordering players to train alone to pressure them into terminating or adjusting their contracts for financial reasons like cutting the payroll or obtaining transfer fees.

Stijn Boeykens, Secretary of the Belgian Players Union ACV-Sporta explains: “During each transfer window we were informed about a number of players who fell victim to clubs which tried to force them to leave by letting them train individually or separated from the squad. That bullying practice had to stop”.

The players’ union negotiated the agreement with both Belgian leagues (Pro League and Nationale Voetballiga). This collective bargaining agreement will come into effect from the 2016-17 season and includes the following minimum requirements for training and training facilities:

  • The player must be enabled to attend training of a squad that plays league matches, and the player must be eligible to play these matches.
  • An individual training program is only allowed when a player is injured or recovering from injuries.
  • Training must be under supervision of a qualified coach who is a member of the technical staff.
  • Training must be during regular working hours.

Boeykens: “If there is still a club that forces a player to train separately or with a youth team, then the club is not fulfilling its contractual obligations, meaning that the player could breach his contract with just cause.”

The so-called training alone practice is not limited to Belgium. Recently footballers in Poland protested against this malpractice by smashing coconuts after Sebino Plaku was made to endure a 14-hour day for six months at Slask Wroclaw. FIFPro also received information about players training alone of being bullied in other countries including The Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

“Bullying and harassment and training alone are serious problems within football,” says FIFPro’s Head of Legal Department Wil van Megen. “Therefore it is a great accomplishment by the Belgian players union to include these provisions in their agreement and protect their members from being victimized by club management.”

Van Megen: “In countries where there are no such agreements, FIFPro advices players to include a similar provision in their contract to guarantee they will not have to suffer from training alone, bullying and harassment.”

Contract termination after two months of non-payment

Another change to the new Belgian collective bargaining agreement, is the provision that in case of two consecutive months of non-payment, players are allowed to terminate their contract. In many countries it still is 3 months. Boeykens: “I think that in our country, we (the players, the clubs and the league) are on the right track with our social dialogue in sports.”