In several articles over the past year, I have lamented that neither clubs nor federations appear willing to offer much of a forum and opportunity for the elite players to express views or to contribute with ideas. For instance, I have commented on the empty gestures of the ‘Athletes Commissions’ that exist on paper but are not being used as intended.
I have also commented on the tendency that clubs and federations discuss ‘over the heads’ of the players about matters that very directly involve the situation of the players, such as the competition calendar, the release of players from clubs to federations for their national teams, health and insurance matters etc. Of course, it is excellent that these matters are finally being discussed, but not that this happens without the participation of the players.
So I think I have established my credentials as someone who genuinely favors more of a voice for the players. But, it is not only a matter of inviting or not inviting the players, or providing a forum or not doing so, Clearly, the top players are for the most part bright, well-educated adults, who should be able to take the necessary initiatives and exert pressure. They should not be content with being treated as children or unthinking robots.
Leaving aside the potential for players to contribute with constructive ideas regarding the development and management of our sport, about the rules etc., at least one would imagine an urge to have the opportunity to speak up out of self-interest. I have never noticed that the players are so shy and inarticulate that this would be unrealistic…
But perhaps their focus is so narrow that they actually prefer a status quo? Or perhaps their focus is only on earning the maximum amounts here and now, so that longer-term considerations, health risks and a willingness to express a preference for fewer games are unthinkable? Or do the players realize that fewer games would lead to reduced revenues and almost inevitably reduced salaries? Or is it ‘beneath the dignity’ of the elite players to act as ‘workers’ who need to get together and speak up, in the same way as unions or syndicates? (I was almost prepared to use a slogan from Karl Marx as a heading for this article: Players of the world, unite! But I got worried that this would scare people off!)
But seriously, I am now beginning to think that I am wasting my time on arguing in favor of increased opportunities for the players, if the reality is that they prefer to hide and stay quite…. But I surely hope it is not so! Players, please wake up and start looking after your interests!
P.S. I hear now in recent days about some awakening among the Bundesliga players; great! we need a good example for others to follow!