Brendan Schwab was a member of the steering committee that helped found a world athletes’ federation, launched at a media conference in London on Thursday. The federation will represent more than 100,000 athletes world wide. Brendan explains its formation and goals.
The formation of a world athletes’ federation is a positive one, both in terms of the development of the protection of elite athletes and the development of professional sport throughout the world.
It will play a key role in speaking for athletes on issues of common concerns and in promoting best practice within the athletes’ associations in the various sports at the national and regional levels.
The key issues of common concern at the moment are the review of the World Anti-Doping Agency Code and a reform to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
There are also legitimate concerns that the current contract signed by Olympic athletes is incredibly one sided and unduly onerous. These are contracts that while signed at national level are mandated under the Olympic charter, having international application.
As we all know, the career of an elite athlete is short term and precarious and, while it can be incredibly rewarding, for the overwhelming majority of athletes it is very much a labour of love.
Sport is a multi-billion dollar industry and it’s very important that it returns sufficient funds to the athletes so they can continue to provide the world class performances as well as develop away from their sports.
A key issue for all of sport is to ensure that athletes have a strong education away from the game and are in a good position to transition smoothly into life once their athletics careers have ended.
At this stage, the world athletes’ federation will only act under an express mandate from the various members including the major global players associations such as FIFPro (football), FICA (cricket) and IRPA (rugby union). As a result, the global player associations will remain the primary bodies responsible for the protection of their members within their sports.
What is pleasing is the keen interest taken by the players’ associations of the United States in the development of the world athletes’ federation. The steering committee involves Don Fehr, the executive director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association and the former executive director of the Major League Baseball PA. The National Football League PA is also represented and the National Basketball Association’s players’ association (NBPA) is giving support.
These players’ associations together with major football associations such as the Professional Footballers’ Association in England, and other major European countries, lead the way in the representation of athletes collectively, and it will be incredibly valuable for all athletes’ representatives thoughout the world to be able to learn from these world class associations.
These associations have led the way in terms of the shares of revenue that are allocated to players, the quality of their education and retirement programs, and, most importantly, the say they have in the running of their sports.
The success of MLB in particular over the last 20 years – since the strike of 1995 – is seen in an extraordinary growth in revenues coupled with the amazing competitive balance. It is an example of what can be achieved when management and players work together in a partnership to grow and develop spots.
Back home the AFL is a very good example of that and we believe that’s the model that needs to be followed by all sports in Australia.
The strength of the world athletes’ federation is that it is ultimately democratically elected by athletes, because all of its members are free and democratic player or athlete associations. Up until now, the major Olympic sports have established their own athletes’ commissions which are designed to provide an athletes’ voice into the decision making. However, history proves these athletes’ commissions are not adequately resourced nor democratic and accountable to the athletes themselves. The world athletes’ federation will provide a democratic and accountable body which, despite recent comments to the contrary, should be warmly welcomed by all major international sporting associations including the Olympic movement, WADA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.