By Andrew Warshaw
April 1 – The head of the international players’ union has denounced Belarus for allowing football to carry on during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The east European country is one of the only corners of the globe where fixtures are continuing since the infection is lower than elsewhere, relatively speaking, but Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, general secretary of FIFPro, says it’s entirely the wrong approach.
“Frankly, it’s not comprehendible (sic) how this can be going on,” Baer-Hoffmann told reporters in a conference call adding players there were “reaching out, concerned.”
“Commonsense tells you they have to apply the same cautionary measures as everywhere else.”
With European football facing a race against time to complete the current season, Baer-Hoffmann said scrapping leagues completely was not an option.
“Everyone in football will lose out if that happens,” he said. “I don’t think it’s responsible to make that consideration at the moment.
“If we have any chance of finishing the season, we have to do so because the impact for players and everyone else in the game will be great if we don’t.”
He also called for a unified approach to deal with player contracts, most of which expire on June 30, and pre-existing transfer arrangements with buying clubs.
FIFPro is represented on working groups established by FIFA and UEFA to look into the whole contract issue. Admitting that the situation was incredibly complex, with so many parties involved, Baer-Hoffmann said extending player contracts from June 30 until whenever the season ends was one viable option.
“That requires a little bit of good faith from clubs,” he said. “Our preference would be that we have as harmonised a solution on the contract extensions as possible. You could very much argue the spirit of the contract is that it runs until the season is over, and a new contract starts with a new season.”
“We are very concerned we might end up in a situation where [clubs] pick and choose who is being retained for the last couple of months of the season and who is not. We believe there should be collective solutions.”
“On the one hand you could say, when a player signs a contract with a new club there is always a risk that they might get injured until that contract starts.
“But when the party signed that contract they probably did so with a thorough understanding of how long that risk period is, namely the end of June. I don’t have a clear answer on how that can be best managed yet.
“Nevertheless I do think it requires some collective consideration as well, because even if that has a different response than all the other contracts, it would still be better to do that in a harmonised way rather than leaving every contract on its own.”
Asked about whether his members should be taking salary cuts like those at Barcelona and Juventus are doing, he pointed out that a vast majority of players in many of the 65 countries where FIFPro is represented are less advantaged.
“The average player we represent is not a millionaire,” Baer-Hoffmann said. “We have people literally on between €300 and €1,000 a month, for them to consider a pay cut is a different story.”
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