World Players Association calls for embedding fundamental labour standards across sport at UN conference


World Players Association calls for embedding fundamental labour standards across sport at UN conference

This week, the World Players Association (WPA) represented the player association movement at UNESCO’s MINEPS VII Global Sport Conference.

The meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, brought together hundreds of representatives from sport ministries from around the world, along with other key stakeholders, including UN agencies, sport governing bodies, brands and civil society.

In a session dedicated to athlete rights, WPA was joined by representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Centre for Sport & Human Rights and others.

WPA Interim Executive Director, Matthew Graham, explained the importance of all stakeholders fulfilling their responsibilities to embed the human rights of athletes, including the fundamental labour rights to organize and collectively bargain (#R2O), as an essential aspect of sport policy.

This followed a recently released report by the WPA that showed:

  • trade union and labour rights are top concerns of player associations (PAs)
  • although 86% per cent of PAs are formally recognized by their counterparts, several barriers exist to the free and full enjoyment of #R2O. The top three barriers identified being:
    • Sham amateurism and the denial of the status of athletes as workers.
    • The imposition of sport-specific laws and exclusions.
    • Widespread cultures of anti-union behaviour.
  • most PAs are subject to acts of anti-union conduct.

The session also focused on the next steps needed by governments and others to drive the outcomes from the ILO Global Dialogue on Decent Work in the World of Sport.

Although the Global Dialogue provided historic recognition that athletes must have their fundamental rights protected – just like any other worker – the follow-up to date has been slow.

The conference stressed that enhanced policies are needed by governments and all actors in relation to human rights and that implementing international labour standards are a key tool to preventing abuse and exploitation of athletes, addressing all forms of discrimination – including on the grounds of race and gender, strengthen #R2O and address the numerous occupational safety and health challenges in the industry.