March & April see the World Players Association unite to advance the dignity and humanity of sport
Shortly after unveiling its strategic vision #WorldPlayersUnited, the World Players Association concluded a series of key meetings and discussions in late March and April to ensure that the dignity and humanity of everyone involved in sport including the players is at the top of sport’s global agenda.
“Whenever players have organised and acted collectively to advance their profession, sport has benefitted in commercial and social terms,” Brendan Schwab, the Executive Director of the World Players Association, said today. “The World Players Association strives to continue this legacy at the global level.”
In a highly active six week period:
- The Executive Committee of the World Players Association met to approve a proposed Universal Declaration of Player Rights with the purpose of embedding internationally recognised player rights within global sports law
- 75 of the world’s leading player development professionals and player association executives gathered in Paris for the 2017 World Player Development Conference to agree upon a set of standards to ensure that world sport focuses on the holistic development of players as people and that players can successfully transition into their post-sport lives
- The Governing Body of the International Labour Organization (ILO) resolved to hold the first global dialogue on the work of professional athletes
- UNESCO identified the safeguarding of athlete rights as a key pillar in the development of an action plan to be presented to the world’s sports ministers in July to protect the integrity of sport
- The World Players Association continued to advance the work of the Mega Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights and the Sport and Rights Alliance to embed the human rights of everyone involved in the delivery of the world’s great sporting events including the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA EUROs and the Commonwealth Games.
“We are gaining confidence that the world of sport is at a turning point,” Schwab said. “The understanding has grown that the biggest threats to sport – corruption, cheating and the abuse of human rights – can only be addressed in partnership with those most affected by them: the players, the local communities, the workers, the journalists and the fans.”
This understanding is now seeing some concrete actions. UNESCO’s International Charter on Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport acknowledges that ILO standards apply to the work of professional athletes. The historic commitment of the ILO Governing Body on 15 March 2017 to hold a global dialogue forum will enable employers, governments and player unions to discuss the application of ILO standards in a practical and meaningful way.
On 30 & 31 March, the World Players Association, as a member of the Permanent Consultative Council to CIGEPS, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education and Sport, assisted in preparations for “MINEPS VI”, the July meeting of the world’s sports ministers. The preparations include an action plan to protect the integrity of sport in a way that expressly empowers athletes whilst safeguarding their fundamental rights.
The growing voice of the players
In its two-day meeting held in Paris on 6 & 7 April, the World Players Association Executive Committee praised the growing voice of the players in world sport, commending:
- The continuing effort and desire among players throughout the world to form players’ associations in a variety of sports. Players want their voice to be heard in the governance of sport, and to negotiate the terms of their involvement. Fundamental to this is the right to be represented by persons and organisations chosen by the players themselves
- The rising activism of female players demanding gender equality as exemplified most recently by the collective actions of the national women’s football teams of Ireland and the United States, as well as the US women’s ice hockey team. The Executive Committee restated its gender equality principles to inform labour negotiations for women athletes.
“The increasing commitment of players to organise collectively is significant,” Schwab said. “It recognises the ever growing demands that sport is imposing on players to perform at an elite level often in the absence of decent working conditions. It also shows a strong response to the far-reaching regulatory commitments imposed by sport governing bodies on players.”
A recent study by Braham Dabscheck, Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne, reveals that of 174 player and athlete associations worldwide, 80 have been formed since the year 2000. Five emerged in 2016 alone. However, players commonly do not enjoy the right to organise and collectively bargain despite it being among the fundamental rights at work according to the ILO.
The Executive Committee also noted with concern:
- The ongoing division and lack of confidence among all stakeholders regarding the future of the global anti-doping regime. To this end, the Executive Committee reiterated its fundamental concerns with current anti-doping policy
- The ever-rising challenges facing players seeking to successfully transition into a post-sporting career from a playing environment characterised by intense pressure, insecurity, injury, media scrutiny and commercialisation.
Proposal for a Universal Declaration of Player Rights Approved
The Executive Committee approved a proposal for the adoption of a Universal Declaration of Player Rights, and is finalising the text having regard to the fundamental rights of players under international human rights law and standards.
“Our objective is for the Declaration to be entrenched within international sports law. This will enable sports to take proactive measures to respect and uphold player rights in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” Schwab said.
“Given the re-occurring concerns over player rights coupled with the violation of internationally recognised human rights around the staging of major sporting events, the time is right for a strong assertion of player and human rights in world sport. A universal commitment by the whole of sport is now essential for sport to retain its social licence.”
In keeping with the spirit of the Declaration, the Executive Committee reiterated its support for the lifting of the hijab ban in basketball and for the campaign of American basketball player Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir which successfully culminated on 4 May 2017 with FIBA adopting a new headgear rule.
Prior to publication, the Declaration will undergo a further process of review and consultation among players, players’ associations, athlete representatives and international human rights experts.
Players are people first
Championing the theme #people first – embedding holistic player development in world sport, the 2017 World Player Development Conference held in Paris on April 3, 4 & 5 saw expert exchanges on the current challenges and future scenarios regarding the personal development and social wellbeing of players.
“Players are people first, and athletes second,” Schwab said. “We are determined to ensure that players not only have every opportunity to maximise their sporting careers, but also fully develop their human potential over their entire life’s journey.”
The presentations and discussions highlighted the acute need for sport to develop players holistically given that players are entering an ever-more competitive, demanding, dangerous and precarious environment at an increasingly young age. This career path and work environment has compounded the challenges that players confront in transitioning throughout their career and in their post sporting lives.
Despite the inherently intense, short term and precarious nature of the athletic career, the conference noted the absence of any worldwide minimum conditions to safeguard and resource the personal development and wellbeing of professional athletes.
Accordingly, the conference developed The Paris World Player Development Standard 2017, a comprehensive policy document designed to underpin player development and wellbeing in world sport. The Standard will serve as a tool for player associations in the negotiation, development, implementation and measurement of player development programs, and to provide a benchmark against which the world of sport can be assessed regarding the value it places on developing players as people as well as athletes. An expert group appointed by the conference will finalise the Standard in June.
For further information or to arrange an interview with Brendan Schwab please contact:
Richard Elliott, Director of Communications, UNI Global Union, firstname.lastname@example.org and +41 79 794 9709