World Football - Eastern Europe reforms too slow, union says

Reforms intended to end the maltreatment of professional footballers in Eastern Europe are moving at a snail's pace despite an agreement signed in April, the international players' union FIFPro said.

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World Football - Eastern Europe reforms too slow, union says
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Lokomotiv Plovdiv 2011

"To take the decision is one thing but to respect it is another thing," FIFPro secretary general Theo van Seggelen told Reuters in an interview. "We have a three-year contract, we have half a year gone so it might not be a bad idea to actually get started."

FIFPro, which represents 60,000 players worldwide through its national affiliates, produced a so-called Black Book earlier this year detailing the abuse of players in the region, which includes 2018 World Cup hosts Russia.

The Dutch-based organisation has frequently complained that players are subjected to threats, violence, arbitrary termination of contracts and non-payment of salaries, as well as receiving invitations to take payments under the table.

Another common practice was to force players to train alone when they were no longer wanted by their clubs, it said.

In March, UEFA agreed at its Congress in Istanbul to guarantee minimum standards for players' contracts in all 53 of its member associations within three years.

The agreement stipulated that contracts must be in writing, must define the rights and duties of club and player and address matters such as salary, health insurance, social security and paid leave.

Contracts should also refer to the duty of players to participate in training, to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to comply with disciplinary procedures.

UEFA and FIFPro formally signed the agreement at the European Commission in Brussels on April 19 along with the European Clubs Association (ECA) and the European Professional Football Leagues' (EPFL).

However, Van Seggelen said that clubs in the region were still making players sign contracts which did not include such guarantees.

"Let's take Russia, if you look at the standard contract of Russia, you won't believe it," said Van Seggelen, pulling a sample copy of a Russian contract off his desk.

"A player has no rights at all. The club can send him away whenever they want and a player has to give all his personal rights to the club."

"We made unbelievable progress when UEFA decided at its Congress to implement the minimum requirements...but a frustration I have always lived with in football is that everything takes so long."

In one recent case, the directors of Bulgarian club Lokomotiv Plovdiv ordered players to take lie detector tests, then psychological tests, after a shock defeat against lowly opposition.

Van Seggelen at the time said the club's behaviour was "ridiculous".

In Russia, fans shot at Dynamo Moscow players with paintball rifles during a training session in protest at poor results.

Van Seggelen said that FIFPro would not let the matter rest. "Our plan is to do some kickoff meetings very soon," he said.

"We have to bring the parties together, the associations, the leagues, the clubs and the unions. We have worked very hard to (set up) unions there and we will not give it up."

"We will not accept the non-implementation of these minimum requirements and I know UEFA realise this, so my hope is that (UEFA president) Michel Platini will convince the presidents of the associations to implement it."

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