FIFPro: Eastern Europe must change mentality

HOOFDDORP - Eastern European clubs must change the way they treat footballers and stop practices such as under-the table payments and hounding out players for bad performances, the world players' union FIFPro has said.

FIFPro General Secretary Theo van Seggelen (pictured) also said in an interview that players should remain anonymous when reporting approaches from match-fixers and that over-zealous anti-doping rules were "like trying to kill a fly with a Kalashnikov."

Van Seggelen said Eastern Europe had become a black spot for players' rights and, with Russia to host the 2018 World Cup, the old excuse - that things are done differently there - was no longer good enough.

FIFPro was working on a so-called "black book" aimed at shaming offenders by listing cases of non-payment of wages and maltreatment of players, he said.

"It has to do with the mentality in these countries," Van Seggelen told Reuters. "They still they think own the players and can do what they want.

"But they cannot keep telling us that in Eastern Europe everything is different and we have to accept that. They also play with 11 players, and have to follow the same rules."

"In seven years, we will have the World Cup in Russia. Several countries are EU members, others will join soon and we cannot longer accept that these players do not have any rights.

"We have lost our patience with them, the only thing we can do is show the world. We told [UEFA President] Michel Platini that we want to help improve the game but you cannot make a difference between Western and Eastern Europe.

"I have been to Bulgaria, Romania, Russia several times," he added.

"I try to have a dialogue but every time I was on the plane [home] I thought... they treated me very well, they were polite and now they're thinking, OK, he's gone. That is frustrating for me, my staff and all the players we represent.

"The contracts are often ridiculous. It's quite usual to pay under the table.

"They say players don't have to pay taxes but it is a ridiculous argument because if you have a contract with a minimum salary and the rest is under the table, you also have no security."

"Then there is the treatment of players. If a player is not performing well, they try to get rid of him."

Another common practice was to make players train separately, he said. In one case. a player in Serbia was made to train twice a day - once at seven o'clock in the morning and once at midnight - after deciding he did not want to renew his contract.

He was also evicted from the hotel where he had been staying.


"The solution is very simple; implementation of the minimum requirements, same standard contracts with fair play. The solutions are easy to find but first you must have the guts to take sanctions against countries," said Van Seggelen.

Such conditions also made the risk of match-fixing, which has become a major worldwide concern, more likely in the region.

"I can imagine that if you have not received your salary for nine months, and somebody says you can earn five times your salary... a player in this situation is vulnerable."

UEFA regulations require a player to report immediately to his federation if he is approached with an offer to swing a game. Van Seggelen, however, said this was the wrong approach.

"You must protect the players otherwise you will never get the information and the police can only do something if they know where it is coming from.

"It has to be anonymous, otherwise it will be too dangerous.

"We have suggested that we do this work because a player is 100 times more likely to go someone he trusts, which is the players' organisation.

"The only thing we can do is go directly to the players, explain the risks, what they can do when they have problems. That is what we have offered to do for the governing bodies. It is a hell of a job but it is our responsibility."

On doping, Van Seggelen said footballers should not be subjected to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) whereabouts rule, where they have to spend one hour a day at a pre-determined location for possible random testing.

"The whereabouts rule in football is absolutely ridiculous," he said, adding that doping was not a major issue in football in any case.

"Every football team in the world trains five days a week, so you always know where the players are. It's unnecessary to control them at home as well.

"It's like trying to kill a fly with a Kalashnikov."