The World Players Association has today launched eight guiding principles to help the sports industry and community confront its biggest crisis since World War II.

As sports bodies, leagues, clubs and players unite to overcome COVID-19, they are also involved in complex negotiations to address the acute financial impact of being indefinitely shut down, advance public and player health, plan for a return to play, and secure the long-term economic survival of their sport. Many players have agreed to major pay cuts, but this is only a small part of a much bigger puzzle.

World Players – a sector of UNI Global Union and a peak labour organization representing more than 100 player associations and 85,000 athletes across the world – developed the guiding principles based on the powerful response of sport to COVID-19’s dramatic impact, which has involved intense and ongoing negotiations with player unions.

“It is essential that a lack of certainty and time does not kill effective negotiations, especially with so much at stake,” World Players Executive Director Brendan Schwab said today. “At the same time, sport is a great connector of people and must continue to play a leadership role in helping society overcome COVID-19 by promoting the best public health messages and practices, including of the World Health Organization.”

The guiding principles assert that athletes and affected groups must have access to expert public health, medical and legal advice, which depend on freedom of association and expression as well as the protection of whistle-blowers.

Care for the physical and mental health and social wellbeing of people in sports is a priority, while high levels of athlete engagement are necessary to identify risk and maximise trust. Importantly, the safety of athletes should come before economic and political decisions.

Omar Hassanein, CEO, International Rugby Players, said:

“Players, like many others in the community, are currently experiencing high levels of anxiety and uncertainty. These principles and the emphasis they place on sport providing continued support for its people will ensure we preserve the positive culture of our great game as we collectively respond to this crisis.”

Athletes are not only vulnerable to COVID-19 – a virus that attacks the lungs and respiratory system – they must also set the right example for all young, fit and healthy people who can still transmit the virus even if they are asymptomatic.

The guiding principles endorse the role of global institutions such as the United Nations and WHO, as well as stakeholder governance, calling for athletes and their associations to be involved in major decisions. 

To mitigate against the harm caused by COVID-19, the principles urge all stakeholders to work together to secure the ongoing viability of sport and plan collectively for the long-term recovery of the sports industry. 

Tom Moffat, CEO of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA), said:

“Our industry, like many others, is facing unprecedented challenges that require deep levels of collaboration and pro-active planning to ensure that it can successfully navigate the crisis. We endorse these principles as providing a strong framework to guide player associations and governing bodies to do so.”

Finally, the guiding principles call for mega-sporting events, to only take place under certain conditions, which include giving access to local communities and fans.

Christy Hoffman, UNI General Secretary, said: 

“Through World Players, the labour movement is providing a pathway to sustain the sports industry.  These principles also ensure that the health of athletes, workers in sport’s supply chains, local communities, and fans come first in any decision-making.”

See the eight guiding principles here.