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The establishment of independent player associations within Asia is fundamental to the attainment of good governance in world football.

This is the main conclusion of the FIFPro Division Asia/Oceania congress, organised last week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last week with the collective representatives of the region’s 15,000 plus professionals.

Attended by representatives of player movements in nine countries and FIFPro Secretary General Theo van Seggelen, the congress made a series of critical decisions relevant to the future of FIFPro both globally and within Asia.

Fundamental Concerns Beset Asia’s Professional Footballers

FIFPro Asia is undertaking a comprehensive review of the current status of rights and wellbeing of Asia’s professional footballers. The review involves extensive consultation with Asian players and includes an analysis of legal cases involving Asian clubs.

The review has been triggered by player feedback that points to some deep seated problems. These include:

  • clubs failing to pay players;
  • clubs unilaterally terminating player contracts without just cause;
  • a widespread culture of bullying and harassment;
  • players spending lengthy periods of time out of the game due to transfer disputes;
  • players being denied the right to work due to clubs failing to administer registration and immigration regulations;
  • the involvement of third parties seeking to manipulate matches;
  • players being forced to train alone;
  • an absence of health and safety protocols, causing players to play and train in extreme heat or without access to basic medical care and support; and
  • racism and discrimination.

These problems can be less prevalent in some countries where the players are organised. Japan, for example, boasts high governance of standards in a country where all players belong to the Japan Pro-Footballers Association.

To this end, the congress received a comprehensive presentation from Dr Jady Zaidi Hassim of the National University of Malaysia on the initial results of a comprehensive survey of more than 1,100 players in the region, including Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Palestine, Singapore and South Korea.

Asian football must Respect the Right to Form and Join Player Associations

FIFPro Asia Chairman Brendan Schwab said that FIFPro looks forward to engaging with the leaders of Asian football to ensure that the right of footballers to organise and collectively bargain are respected and upheld by Asia’s football authorities.

“The congress received very troubling reports of the concerns players have of being victimised should they involve themselves in an effort to work for a players’ association.

“These concerns exist despite FIFPro being recognised as the exclusive collective representative of the world’s professional footballers by FIFA. Further, the right to organise and collectively bargain is a fundamental right recognised by the International Labor Organization in a number of conventions ratified by many Asian countries.

“As a result, almost all Asian countries have failed to implement basic measures such as the minimum player contract requirements or establish a national dispute resolution chamber that meets the standards agreed by FIFA and FIFPro.

“At a time when there is a crisis of confidence in the governance of world football, it is clear that the formal involvement of the players in the governance of the game through independent player associations will result in greater transparency, accountability and performance,” Schwab added.

Asia Schwab 640

Asia Backs FIFPro’s Transfer System Challenge

FIFPro Asia unanimously resolved to support the decision by FIFPro to launch legal proceedings to challenge the international player transfer system.

FIFPro Secretary General Van Seggelen said that it is clear that Asia’s professional footballers are enduring many of the hardships faced by players elsewhere, including a lack of respect for contracts and the potential negative involvement of third parties.

“FIFPro maintains that the current transfer regulations hurt football as a business and as a sport, fail to protect the players and leave the game open to abuse. It is clear that these problems are also true for Asia.

“Reform of the transfer system must therefore be a key plank of any effort to reform the governance of football. Football cannot claim to be well administered if the basic rights of players are not respected and players are living in fear of corruption and intimidation.”

Changes to the Leadership of FIFPro Asia

Due to his appointment as Head of UNI World Athletes, the global athletes’ and players’ association across professional sport, Schwab tendered his resignation as FIFPro Vice President and FIFPro Asia Chairman, effective 31 December 2015. He was elected as the Division’s founding Chairman in 2007.

As FIFPro is an active member of UNI World Athletes with three representatives on the ten person Executive Committee including van Seggelen and FIFPro Asia General Secretary Frederique Winia, Schwab will continue to be actively involved in advancing the cause of the world’s professional footballers.

The congress unanimously ratified the election by the Board of FIFPro Asia of Australia’s Adam Vivian (photo left) as FIFPro Asia Chairman and the Division’s representative on the FIFPro Board. Vivian is the Chief Executive of Professional Footballers Australia (PFA).

“It is a great honour to be elected FIFPro Asia Chairman and to have the opportunity to represent the region’s professional footballers within the FIFPro Board,” Vivian said. “I am very determined to bring the strength of the PFA’s membership to the twin challenges of supporting the region’s professional footballers and building the strength of professional football throughout the region.”

Izham Ismail (photo right), the Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association of Malaysia, was unanimously elected to fill a casual vacancy on the Board of the Division.

Vivian Izham 640

FIFPro Asia Board (from 1 January 2016)

Adam Vivian, Australia (Chairman)
Takuya Yamazaki, Japan (Deputy Chairman)
Andrew Scott-Howman, New Zealand
Anuj Kichlu, India (alternate: Cyrus Confectioner)
Izham Ismail, Malaysia