Leaders from across the global player union movement gathered in the Netherlands on 23-24 May to share experiences, knowledge and strategies on building player power at the first ever #Right2Organize Conference hosted by the World Players Association (WPA) and FIFPRO.
Representatives from more than 70 player associations in 35 countries and 17 sports, including football, basketball, baseball, cricket, American football, rugby, tennis and more, met at the FIFPRO headquarters outside Amsterdam to learn from leaders in some of the most powerful and innovative professional athlete unions in the world and take away practical tools to organize players, carry out collective action and collectively bargain – all of which are fundamental to improving the rights and working conditions of athletes and players.
NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith highlighted the value of global collaboration for player associations through WPA. “Organizations like FIFPRO, the NFL Players Association, the WPA are all built on the backs of players who are simply trying not only to have a great career but also to have a fair and just workplace,” Smith said.
WPA Executive Director Brendan Schwab, said: “In my experience, organizing is about building the confidence of the players that they will prevail, and remember, players by their nature are very competitive people. If we can tap into that competitiveness, combine it with principle, a clear strategy for a better career path, a better sport, then the players are really in a position to be equal partners to shape the direction of the game.”
Following remarks from FIFPRO General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann and a keynote address from Schwab, Day 1 delved into the experiences of organizing player unions from the heads of the NFLPA and International Rugby Players Association, and board members of the International Cricketers Association and FIFPRO, with former WPA Executive Director Walter Palmer moderating the discussion. The session wrapped up with a workshop led by Todd Brogan of the ITUC Global Organizing Academy on optimizing player buy-in and ownership.
The second day of the conference featured a “fireside chat” with MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark, then turned the focus on global case studies of player associations using leverage, bargaining and collective action. The conference closed with a look toward what the future world of work and play means for player associations.
Attendees received the World Players’ #Right2Organize Survey & Report – a landmark study into organizing in global sport. The report, which will soon be released widely, shows that although ensuring respect for #R2O is the only effective means of athlete representation, anti-union conduct is widespread across sports, countries and cultures.
As FIFPRO General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said, “Organizing, in the end, for every union is the bedrock of everything you do. The players are moving forward, and I think this is exactly the theme of the last couple of days here, to learn how we do that most effectively, and therefore, how the players win the long game.”