“Free, independent, strong and representative employers’ and workers’ organizations, together with trust, commitment and respect by the governments for the autonomy of the social partners are key conditions for effective social dialogue in football,” said Guy Ryder, head of the International Labour Organization (ILO), at the signing ceremony at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The agreement creates a new international bargaining framework between the World Leagues Forum (WLF) – representing 44 national professional football leagues comprising some 1,100 clubs – and FIFPRO, the global footballers’ union – representing more than 60,000 professional football players as employees in the international football industry, through 66 national player unions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania.
Employer and employee representatives signed the Global Labour Agreement (GLA) for professional footballers (the sport is referred to as soccer in the United States), agreeing to take greater responsibility in finding collective solutions to the challenges facing the industry.
The pact acknowledges that collectively agreed upon standards, will improve labour relations in the professional game, and improve the multi-billion dollar sport’s viability and growth.
Setting ground rules
The agreement will provide a platform for discussing rules for protecting players’ health and safety along with a commitment to improve the representation and involvement of domestic leagues, their member clubs and players’ unions.
Moreover, it recognizes the need for greater representation and consideration for women’s football – including issues related to domestic competitions, clubs, and players.
Negotiations may also include issues such as employment standards, concussion management, measures to tackle discrimination and racism – including on social media – and other forms of abuse.
Under the GLA, ILO may be asked to provide expert advice in areas where it has expertise, including implementation of the agreement.
“Football has the power to inspire and unite people of all nationalities and walks of life, irrespective of gender and ethnicity,” upheld the ILO chief, adding that the players “need to be protected by the fundamental principles and rights at work.”
More on the agreement
The GLA follows the fundamental principles and rights at work set out by ILO in the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which was amended in 2022.
It is also in line with the Points of Consensus of the ILO Global Dialogue Forum on Decent Work in the World of Sport (2020).
Specific reference is also made to the ILO Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the ILO Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98) .
© Marcel Crozet