The World Players Association convened over 70 representatives from leading player unions together with public health and medical experts on 21 April to discuss when and how it will be safe for sport to ‘return to play’ during the coronavirus pandemic.
As negotiations with unions are underway to resume play in many sports and countries, the online meeting heard the crucial medical, epidemiological and player wellbeing issues that need to be addressed to ensure that any return to play is done responsibly and protects the health and safety of players and the public.
Unions attending the call included FIFPRO (soccer), International Rugby Players, the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, major US unions (MLBPA, NBPA, WNBPA, NHLPA, NFLPA), EU Athletes, the Australian Athletes’ Alliance (including Australian rules football, rugby league, netball and basketball), the New Zealand Athletes Federation and Athletes CAN.
World Players Executive Director, Brendan Schwab, said:
“The players are determined to ensure that sport sets the right example for the broader community effort to combat the pandemic.
“There is growing economic pressure on many sporting leagues and competitions to resume play and we want to make sure that the players are fully aware of the risks involved to inform their negotiations with employers.
“There is still a lot that even the experts do not know about Covid-19, but we can be certain that athletes are vulnerable despite being young and fit.
“Any feasible return to work plan will need to address the precise health risk of the coronavirus on athletes, mental health, legally and financially protect those who contract the virus, and ensure that the extensive health and safety measures that need to be place in any sport can be deployed without undermining the public health system.
“Given the rapidly evolving situation, our movement is committed to further dialogue and information sharing to develop guidelines with public health and medical experts designed to ensure a safe return to play if at all possible.”
The learnings will also inform World Players, a part of UNI Global Union, in its dealings on behalf of athletes in discussions on Covid-19 with global bodies including the World Health Organization, the International Olympic Committee and other major sports organizations.
World Players has released 8 Guiding Principles to help the sports industry and community confront the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.