Global Athlete
Global Athlete

Episode · 1 month ago

Re-release: Athlete Power and Representation in Professional Sports with Matt Graham and Paulina Tomczyk


This is a re-release of our interview with Matthew Graham and Paulina Tomczyk, originally published within GA Podcast EP04.

Athletes must have a voice when it comes to athlete rights and players associations provide the opportunity for their voices to be heard and supported. Noah welcomes Matt Graham and Paulina Tomczyk to discuss what players associations are and why they’re so necessary in today’s world of sport.

In this episode, we talk about…

  • What a player association is and examples of players associations
  • The main mission of player associations when it comes to athlete representation and accountability
  • Why new player associations and unions receive backlash and often struggle
  • Common issues for athletes with amateur status
  • How just cause and culture can influence the formation of player organizations
  • How large players organizations operate and support athletes
  • Revenue models for both large and small players associations
  • Why EU Athletes and other umbrella organizations exist
  • World Players Association and how unions benefit from this group
  • The relationship between World Players Association and the IOC
  • Why it’s possible for smaller sports to have strong players associations 

Memorable Quotes:

  • “When the players realize as a group they enjoy considerably more power than they have as individuals, they’re actually in a strong position to negotiate the terms and conditions of their work and they’re broader livelihoods.” 

Guest Bios:

Australian freestyle skier Matt Graham is the Director of Legal and Player Relations for the World Players Association.

Paulina Tomczyk is the General Secretary of EU Athletes, the European federation of player unions and athlete associations, and is also an Executive Committee Member of World Players Association.

Links to resources:

EU Athletes

World Players Association


The Cyclists Alliance

Follow World Players Association on Twitter @WorldPlayersUtd, EU Athletes @EUAthletes, Paulina @PauTomczyk and follow Global Athlete @GlobalAthleteHQ. Get in touch at and join the movement at

Welcome to the Global Athlete podcastconversations about power, accountability and Athlete rights inInternational Sport, I'm Noah Hoffman. In this episode I talked with Matt,Graham of the World Players' Association and Paulina Tomczyk of EUAthletes about player associations and athlete power and representation inprofessional sports. Matt Graham is the director of legaland Player relations of the World Players Association, Paulina Tomczyk is thegeneral secretary of EU Athletes. It's so great to have you both. Thank you forbeing here. Last week, we heard from Becky Scott about the athleterepresentation model of the International Lympic Committee in theworld. The Anti Doping Agency and Becky painted a picture of a system in whichathletes lack any real power, a system in which administrators exert controlover other athletes. So I want to this week talk aboutsystems in which athletes do have real power, and I want to kind of start withthe basics. I think we need to kind of get some definitions out there, becauseI know that when I first got into this space, I didn't really understand whatthe different terms meant so matt. Would you mind telling us what a playerassociation is and maybe give a few examples of player associations yeah? I think no at its core, a player association iscompletely play scented and play a driven, and I think, there's a fewdefining aspects of that which are common across player associationsthroughout the world. So at world players we bring together about eightyfive sand athletes through over a hundred player associations in morethan about sixty five countries, that includes player associations inmajor global sports, such as football with faith pro, but also robin cricketand of the regional levels, and we've obviously got Paulina on the show totalk about a athletes, but also a national levels as well, and thatincludes player associations, including those in the major pro leagues in theUS, including the NFL, PA and Hoba and BPA, and so on May be, will beinterested brevity. I won't list them all, but I kind of think if youactually look at the defining features of what a player association is youknow, part of it is being an independent form of athleterepresentation about the term. I think we heard about last week, but it's alsoa little bit deeper than that player associations are completelyrepresentative of the players, so you know the players will set up structuresto appoint. You know team representatives or divisionalrepresentatives. They will then appoint an executive board and that ExecutiveBoard will then pick its leadership, who will lead the players innegotiations and so on, and then, as part of that, the PA is in term ofcompletely accountable to the players, and if the play is unhappy with the jobthat its representatives or are doing it all sort of you know it will removethem. And you know, another thing is thatsort of defines player associations is there's actually a duty to act in thebest rages, interest of the players and not necessarily the sports governingbody which exists in some sort of other po pockets, there's actually legal andethical consequences. If a player association doesn't actively sort ofadvance. So that's a pretty yeah, it's anexcellent definition. It draws a pretty clear line about what a playerassociation is so Paulina. EU athletes, as is world players, is not actually aplayer association itself. It's a collection of different playerassociations, but it does it actually does you. Athletes actually includegroups that you would not define as player associations, I would say I would define all ourmembers or player or outlets unions or associations, as I I use quite a lot ofwords, because we want to be as broad as possible. I think Matt reallyexplained well, let's see the theory behind behind the player associationsand the organizations at that we gather have to be independent, have torepresent the players this. This has to be their main goals, they have to bedemocratic and they have to be by and for players so to speak. But then, then, when it comes to theactual you now specific constitution or who do they represent exactly and howthey choose their action, they are, of course different different ways to do that indifferent sports in different countries and depending depending on thesituation, can you give us some examples of thedifferent, the types of organizations, types of players associations withinyou athletes? Well. So, for example, on one side we have members from Rugleywhich you would probably regard as...

...typical player associations. We havethose members from from Ireland from UK from France, andthese are very well established from decades already player associations, but also, maybe not that many people realize, becausevery often we say player, association and people just think directly about us,Major Leagues and football, but player associations existing in many differentcollect sports as well, if we think about basketball, volleyball ice hockey, foot, sal and so on in Europe, but we also have already forquite some time, for example, associations representing over allathletes in a given country. We have that type of associations in theNetherlands. There's an organization called an areporter that exists for more than ten years already representing overathletes, also in individual and Olinde sports. We have that in Islamia in Tanain Denmark- and I also very young assocation in in twentie. So this ishappening more and more. You know you, you wouldn't think about Athenasociation in the in the connection to a INDICO. But but the fact is, they havethe same right to find an association and to be represented by those people.We also have a very interesting example of gaitplayers- Association. It's. They were present players who areamateur but elite in Ireland in the traditional games that no Waly are amystery from people outside of their country was. This is the most the mostpopular sport in in that country and they and they function as a playerassociation when it comes to representing the uther athletesnegotiations, also, revenue sharing and and assuringvery good services for their members. Well, at the same time, the theirmembers are a mater. At least. I think it's really helpful to hearabout all of the different types of of organizations and different sportscovered by your organizations, because I thinkthat that maps on pretty well to the Olympic context when we think about outthe athlete representation at the Olympic context, and that's why Iwanted to have you both honest, because you both have because you're from theseumbrella organizations that have player associations underneath you, you bothhave experience with all different types of player associations. So I dowant to talk about in you kind of I M Mani, want to ask questions from theabout specific player associations to get an understanding of how theyfunction, how they operate and, and then we can map that on to the broaderorganizations of EU athletes and world players as we go, but I think the mostkind of basic question and I'll direct this to you mad is where you players, associations. Iguess our players, associations primarily driven by getting I think ofthem as having power to hold sport administrators accountable. Is that anaccurate way to think about their primary mission? Or do they have otherpurposes other than holding sport administrators accountable? And if so,what are those those missions they have yeah? Well, I think you know absolutelyplayer associations on an equal saying. Every decision that's made that's goingto affect the sort of the career of their athletes, and so doing they alsowant to you know proactively advance and protect the right to their emendes.I think that's kind of the easiest way to probably put it now. So how do they do that? Well, you know trying to think about the best way. Togive you an example. You know, I think the starting point is the playerAssociation Movement actually has quite a long history. I think the paffin theUK has been around for over a hundred years. Now, in the s we saw thedevelopment of player associations in the US through the Semites Europe inparticular, and football. Then, in the s with the huge professionalization ofsport, we sold more and more players. Associations develop and Pauline onshore can speak to the growth of e fleet and her organization, which isalso a trend we witness. We witness kind of globally, but you know I thinkthe Commons read to developing strong player associations is something thatwe call organizing right and what we mean bythat is that you know when the players realized as a group, they enjoyconsiderably more power than what they have as individuals, they're, actuallyin a really kind of strongl position to...

...negotiate. What I said before in termsof you know the terms and conditions of their work and and also they're bord alivelihoods. Now organizing is hard work. You know the players have tounderstand what the role of the Union is and what their role is within a youknow. They have to understand that the unions are there for them, but once they actually kindof buy into that collective consciousness, they're actually reallyreally strong. Now you know management tendency will be to try and to viewdeal with athlete individually or divide and conquer athletes, but at theend of the day, the athletes are in a very strong position because nobodygoes to sport to see a referee or or administrator play. You know. Eliteathletes are both the Labor and product of professional sport, so once theykind of develop that consciousness and organize and build strong in going avery strong position to actually exert some leverage pobble. Now, when you would, you could of watched thetransition of a sport from a sport that has not previously had an independentathlete body to a sport? Maybe that becomes part of EU athletes that thathas a strong representative body that ex that's external from administration.What kind of changes do you often see in those sports like what is the resultof this of the Independent Athlete Group? I think well, first of all is reallyputting the question of atises rights and interest on the agenda. I would sayno more in a more strong and decisive way. I agree that that that part about wellstrength of the Union is coming from the numbers that they have. You knowwhen you represent nearly all of the athletes of the pates from the firstdivision or you know, of the elite level national Ti mathletes. There isreally there shouldn't be any denying to the to the relevance of suchorganization, so when it speaks, it should resonate more still, I think in Europe we, theorganizations, especially the young ones, are really facing first a lot ofbacklash when they are starting to to form player associations. It especiallyhappens in in countries where there is less traditional of player association.I come from Poland from Eastern Europe and I can tell you it's a verydifficult field there for player associations to start something, evenif they should, according to law, have a a strong position. For example, thereis still this tendency political tendency to use to use a long answer to specificity ofsport. You know, as I unies the amateurism and someone to try to denyathletes rights, so the change is often not coming that quickly. I would say it:It's very often you have at least quite a few years before the the union isreally able to grow in a way to have a very strong impact in this part. That will, of course,depend it helps if you have already some other associations in a country,for example that are helping you or you get support from from the Vasistas inthe same sports from from different countries, and that is also that we'retrying to facilitate, as he latitood always helps to have strong friends. But but what we have seen over the years isjust in some sports athletes, literallycoming from being defined as amateur to being defined as professional andactually having that workers status, proper payments being paid on timebeing able to negotiate on. Also, you know working conditions, benefits andso on, starting from a very, very difficult point at the beginning- and Ithink when this is this- is something that for athletes, who really does they do sport a as as work? This issomething that is said that is crucial, but you said that not all of yourmembers virgin t e the Gaelic athletes youmentioned or amateur, so why? I guess? How does it work if it's not always about wages, and it's not always about themoney and revenue sharing? I'm surprised that there are athletesthat they are amateur athletes that are under you athletes. That's a veryspecific example that it's it's linked, also so to history and Carter ofIreland. The game export beeing,...

...traditionally amateur, but actually wefind that there is a lot of topics that we can agree on, so just because anathlete is defined as amateur, and there is a bigdifference. You know when you agree to take part in in sport. There is the finders amateurand the players and player association is okay with that and being an deyforced to be so called amateur. Now this is this fundamental difference,actually, but still a matter or not desire, eliteathletes, and they want to have good working conditions, and especially thisthey want to be able to to train and to practice their report in a safe, healthy balance way theywant to have an opportunity to balance ports with education with the careersof example, player development player support. Well career is a veryimportant part of gay players. Association work as it is to to any anyother world everope player association. So, actually, when it comes to this,when it comes to parents relented, especially to ATIS welfare, which is avery broad category, we find that there is a huge field on which we can.We can work together, okay, so the amateur athletes are pretty very example. So is it most of the time when you see these organizations form,is revenue sharing and and wages forathletes, often part of the part of the organizations mission from the verybeginning yeah. I think if we, if we think now about maybe some of theorganizations that the joined as the latest, if I think about them, it's probably not at the level ofrevenue sharing directly, yet it's really about assuring that thecontracts are respected. In the first place, there is a very routine practiceof paying at Leta. You know let me to receive their payments to three months, the late which, of course, is extremelydifficult when you have a family to support- or you know, the type of contracts thatare being used, self employed or service contractinstead of normal employment contracts. That, of course put athlete indifficult positions. So very often, some of the first steps of PayerAssociation would be, for example, to focus on the recovering debts forplayer associations, on working with the systemic abuse of at its rights tonormalize. The working conditions, or even just you know, first stuff isbeing able to actually talk with with the League and with the Federation. Mat polina talked about the the obstacles that athletes face toorganizing and the pushback they get from owners, and and in your experience,knowing kind of the history of some of these organizations, and actually Iwanted to mention that so Han Shaw last week on our show talked about how hefelt like his effort to create an independent organization inthe US, failed because there wasn't a big galvanizing or a big galvanizingevent that really brought out each together. There wasn't kind of amotivating factor, so is that your experience have you seen that, likeathletes really need a single issue to rally around in order to to form theseunions, or has it happened in different ways? How do athletes overcome thebarriers that Paulina was talking about yeah? It's a good question. No, I, likea lot of player associations, do develop in relation to a just cause,for example. So if you have a look back at the the NFL PA back in the s whenthat was developing, you know they just want to clean socks and jocks with o.That was the sort of the rallying cause there, but it's obviously developedinto a much bigger organization. You know in baseball and basketball in those sports they wantedto have better pension plans, and you know to begin with their kind of tobegin of what they wanted was actually quite modest. But then, as late teneducated and as this of their sort of powers, growing they've now goneincredibly sophisticated sort of collective bargaining agreement. So alot of development is around a just cause, and that is important, but youknow at the same time, I think if you have a look at the global level, youknow- and I thought what was interesting about Han and Becky'sconversation was last week. There's also got to be the culture that itallows, athletes to organize and often either in direct or indirect wayss.There are actually impediments where... know athletes are told you shouldet join a union or the way that the representation model is set up. It'sconcreated and controlled by management as a substitute for engaging with youknow, player, associations and so on. So you know, obviously the just causeis important, but at the same time we also have to have this culture of respect for athletes tobe able to organize. If that's what they want to do, and we do say thathe's missing, certainly an element of God- a sport at the moment pauline. I think that question of howthese organizations form is really important, especially when I thinkabout the Olympic context and so many sports that don't have any independentathlete representation. So I I just would love to hear if you have anythingto add to what Matt said about kind of the different ways that you see theseorganizations for my sounds like your organization. EU athletes is actuallymore involved with helping to form these organizations. I don't knowactually, if, if world players is involved in that as well- and that canspeak to that in a little bit, but but what do you see in yeah? What do you see in how athletesovercome those barriers that you were just speaking yeah, it's true in Europe,we do have quite out of movement when it when itcomes to organizing, but basically every year we have at least one one newassociation joining and yeah. It's really great tosee that I think very often it just starts withone person. It's very often, very stubborn, very ambitious person who who des Port Orgia wouldcall difficult as well probably just the person that really wants to changesomething, and they really are ready to sacrifice their time. You know to put themselves in a verydifficult position and and a really do all this work not for themselves,probably because quite often does it. We said it takes a little bit timebefore really the changes kicks in, but for the next generation. So I thinkit's really yeah, it's quite a specific profileright. So it's always great. When we see someone like this say well, I wantto start to play your Assisian, or at inessential will always thinkit's good to start from the top, so very often players still to to to checkit. There is super from the players to form such an association. You know you can I you can do a survey.You can check you. Can you can do ten visits already, but it's alwaysimportant to have the support of the top of the of the national team, forexample, as o o the captains of different teams in a country, and thenit really is about about growing the membership and that organizing workthat will take a lot of time, a lot of energy. What we're trying to do with you and is,as I mentioned before, is also to connect people to allow them to learnfrom each other. So already, if in a given country there, where there aresome associations that exist and hopefully are stronger, it is easierfor or is potentially easier for view associations to be created, becausethere are some. You know foot bothers that that faith the way already, butalso from sports to parts, and this is something that we are trying to do asmuch as we can is to connect people and really allow them to exchange. You knowexchange about how they are doing their work, how they are actuallycommunicating with players. You know how do you go to to a locker room andexplain to players the the interest of player assosiates? That's point. Oftenplayers will had just ask him, but why should we bother know what whatever wewere going to get from that? So there's really really this very,very strong work of organizing and also then it'swell. You have communication work. You have loving. You have been in differentAlia, aliance with thith government, with Port Orantiswith N. go just really trying also to to make your position better, and Ithink it's a very difficult tin, God way to get there may be often you know we so think about playerassociations and their strength and their power. I think that the ultimatenuclear of shot is always going on a strike right. If you go a strike well,it's quite wet heart for that. For the for the other side,to just ignore that, and I think what it's what is interesting in some of the delepine that we haveseen recently withour members is what,...

...when you get to a certain level, youdon't actually have to go to strike. You know you it has. There has beensome some situations with player.Associations were considering that they were ready to go on strike and then the other side, the the T, leagues orthe federations. You were kind of forced to recognize that they needed toto meet players demands that's really really interesting, and Ican see that mapping on, for instance, then, in the new tennis association,the new, the new independent body for athletes, no Bako Ovitch who's, thenumber one player in the world is one of the leaders of that organization. Soit makes sense to me that the T T it's really important to have a couple ofthe top athletes involved. I want to learn a little bit more of the workabout how these organizations operate, especially the really big, strong onesMatt, and so you know what I have learned over theyears. A little bit is that is that you know they do more than just likerepresent athletes and bargain on behalf of athletes. They actually like they provide legal representation forathletes, often when they're in disputes with the leagues etc. And socan you talk about like some of the big players associations that are part ofworld players. They have large staffs. What exactly do these organizations alot you know, so I think you absolutely right. You know they kind of start withnegotiating the CA. You know as part of that they will then have individualstandardized player contracts as well. Once you've got the contract fantastic,you have to enforce it. So then making sure you've got a fair grievancemechanism in place to actually enforce the sort of benefit. That's a big partof the work, as you said, that will involve providing legal support forathletes if they have a contraction dispute or or something else of thattime. What's a really big issue across board at the moment is related inrelation to you know, occupation or health and safety. I think we've seenin in football rugby. You know any number of sports at you should aroundconcussion, so our player associations are deeply involved with you know,making sure there's protocols in plays where player in health and safety isgoing to be front and center. Of course, you knowthe NFL been leading a lot of the research in that space in the US, butyou know, I think another thing and Polena mentioned it before- is actuallyensuring that players are ready for life after sport, sorry preparing themfor life after sport, you know through transition programs and other welfarekind of support, so recently it well players. We just had a kind of what wecall our play: Development and well being conference. That was a massiveonline conference and that brought together about two hundred different atten days, who are responsible for delivering different aspects of playerWelfare Program. So this whole concept of you know the athlete as a personfirst and that they should be supported for their time both in sport, but alsowhen that time comes to an end is a really big priority. For the you know,Player Association Movement. Another thing, that's also really important, isyou know the commercialization of athlete rights, in particular throughroot licensing programs and so on. We obviously say in the Olympic Movementefforts to kind of suppress the earning potential of athletes, but our playerassociation is quite a really proactive role in optimizing. The value ofathlete brands, particularly as a group through group licences that, where mostof these organizations get their revenue from because people think ofthese as being incredibly high revenue sport. Some of these big big sportswith big player associations, but the revenue can't come from the leagues,because that would be that would not be an independent organization. So so,where does the revenue come from? For most of these big player associations, yeah or for the major ones- and youknow we're really sort of speaking about the the ones in the majorproletary, a lot of revenue does come through the great licensing programs.They often will sort of set up a subsidiary as part of the PA. That willbe responsible for optimizing. These programs, you know, and what thatreally looks like in reality- is that you know a portion of the revenue thatcomes in from groove licensing goes to the union. POUSEEN that's invested backinto the group licensing program, but the vast majority of that group revenuethen goes back to the players to share on as a group you know so...

...yeah. I think that's probably theeasiest and poly now for for kind of the whole spectrum of sports and notjust the top US pro sport do they all do mo do most of the groupsthat you work with, have professional staff and have revenue, and if so,what's the revenue model for some of the sports that have much smallerrevenues than the NFL or the NBA? I think it's again quite quite diverseacross or thirty five members. There are some organizations, especially atthe beginning of their work, that that are just volunteer and but I think it's even moreimpressive than to see the amazing work that that they are doing even withoutthe protion stuff, but at the same time they're working towards this is, I think it they take. They considerthis more as the first step when they don't have money, they cannot. Weafford to hire stuff, but they are hoping to develop theassociation and then hire someone to do this full time and really be be dedicated to this, and on the on the you know, inthe middle, we would have organizations with a quite small stuff. Either may bepart time or you know just assume people, and then, on the other side,with those more established associations, they would have quite abig or medium stuff, especially if they have they have developed player development programs than thestuff of player development managers. This is also quite big when it comes torevenues of player associations. Thinking in in Europe, the situationwhen it comes to to image rights and and and this as being the main sourceof players, association revenue is- and it's obviously not the same situationas it is in the US, and it was very, very quite a lot. This is mad. It's notthat common. Yet, unfortunately, I think to to to include that element. I think it is. It's also our go to towork on this on this area or because, in the end, these are players rightsthat they have and they should be able to to capitalize on those. But there are different ways or forplayer association with a membership to get money. The first one is membershould dose so players when they want to become a member of an association.They have to pay membership dues to be able to benefit from the services andthe representation of a player association, of course, depending on how big LearAssociation is that that's not may not be a huge amount that you're going tocollect some. Then, of course, there of theiroptions, such as donations, sponsors certain partnerships, the yeah t e, the agreements, the therevenues coming from either federation or the League, even the government in Europe. Also, wehave this lovely thing called the European Union with within Aratus plasprogram that actually allows sports organizations to carry certain projectsand receive grants for such a project, so you can get grants from from the European Union or or otherserice on on specific projects. I think it's especially at the beginning oftheir journey. The player associations are really creative because you reallyhave to have to try to pull those resources from different sources beforeyou were able to to really become you know, financially independent andthen strong. It's really refreshing to hear that thepeople are just making it happen. However, they can because I think, whenI think about kind of new player associations forming an Olympic sports,the the money you've part is always to me something it feels so hard to ask anathlete to pay a do. When I know the athlete is struggling just to paytraining costs and and to travel to competitions, okay, I want to understand a little bitmore kind of the multilayer organizational structure of when Ithink about with these these, so so makely. I one understand like like: Whydo EU athletes and world players exist? Why are the why these umbrellaorganizations so pulling a you're kind of a mid level organization? Because EUathletes is a member of world players? So can you talk about from yourperspective like what is you athletes do and why I have a collection ofEuropean players associations, I think h.

We were. We were established in the twothousand and seven, and it was around that time that there was more and more attention givento sport at the European level, but when it comes to the R con Union andthe Council of Europe, so there have been some initiatives, no differentmeetings, expert groups and so on working on on different areas on sport,and we already had a number of player association existing around Europe andstaying in a loose touch. But then the decision was made that we really neededa united voice to be represented when those decisions of being made. I thinkit's really the first step just you want to be involved in the discussion and that remains very relevant stilltoday. There is still a lot of things going on and we want to be present. Wewant to represent the a the voice of the athletes at the other other parts.The major part that we're doing is is really related to helping player associations organizedas I, as I talked already about you know, connecting people creaking. Thisnetwork, exchanging good practices, allowing people to work on morespecific topics through different projects and initiatives can reallylearn a lot from from people from different countries and and differentsports. I think you know we say you reallythink it. Probably that would be two main things: just representation andjust creating this platform over learning and organizing and Mat world players brigs together.Some of the you know some of the strongest player associations in theworld. I mean, and really some of the strongest unions that you see anywherethe when I think about union strength. I think the the NFL PA and and the NBAPA are some of the strongest organizations that I can think of. Sowhat is the? What is it it for those organizationsto be part of this larger, collective and and what DIS world players do? Yeahabsolutely like, I think, polenas sort of outlined the the back job prettywell. In terms of you know, there is a value in terms of being connected tonetwork in particular best practice. I think a really good example of how alltheir unions exchange best practice, for example, was with coved last year.So you know that was really quite a galvanizing thing for the playerAssociation Movement, no matter how big or how strong you were going toexperience similar issues with other player associations throughout theworld. So we had a number of exchanges where we were bringing together, expert and so on, and you know thatplayed a small part in the development of some pretty rigorous protocols inprofessional ten sports, and you know, I think, we've obviously seen thedifference between the protocols that were adopted there. For example, youknow in comparison with mortifying propose for the the Tokyo Olympics, butI think the other thing is and why a lot about how unions have come together to be part ofworld players is that we sort of realize that you know there was a lotof decisions being made that affected our members at the global level. Whatthat they didn't have an equal saying in the same way that they did at thenational levels right. So you know the examples you give given with the NFL Bat PA or the NBA or hockey or in other sports fish pro in football. You knowall of these decisions are collectively bargained and then there's a process toenforce and agree those decisions that still is in thereat the global level. So we say you know it's for the imposition of the onlycharter, the water code, the Colt of Arbitration Sport, a lot of exampleswhere athletes don't have an equal say in those bodies and that leads to youknow, unfortunately, not athletes centered out com. So a lot of whatwe're doing with a athletes and all about affiliates is trying to worktogether to sort of advance the reform of those institutions at the globallevel. So you know they had the same leverage and power that they do at theat the national level. That's been a hard fight. I know,because I've followed it and holding the IOC accountable is no easy task that I would say that we,as as a global athlete community or are not succeeding in that at the moment.So can you talk about that work? What isthe interaction between world players and the IO C? What is the interactionbetween your member player associations in the IOC and how what's the path forward and and whatare the struggless yeah look? You know...

I kind of think Paulina picked up onsomething for, but when you're developing organization, you don't havethese problems and and tensions at the star.Well, players were still a fairly young organization. We only really kind offormally came together about two thousand and fifteen and look there'sabsolutely a long way to go in relation to engagement with the IOC. You know Iwould say, if we kind of take a step back and have a look at the history ofthe player Association Movement, it's both being a win win for athletes interms of the benefits and conditions that they've ultimately received, butit's also been good for sport. You know it's been good for sport in financialterms, but also in wider welfare terms, because when can you actually rise, theathletic voice lad to positive outcomes. So a few racing examples, as I said before,with cove, the OC hasn't really embraced the bestpractice that we have shared also with rule fifty that's another example wherethey opted to chart a different course, and you knowI guess the Olympics are only a few weeks away now. So we'll see what happens with that,but but what I would say is our feeling its have been absolutely clear and supporting players who exercisetheir right to peaceful protests at the Games yeah. So I actually want to jump backto what you just said there, which is how these players associations changefor, because I think it is really important to highlight kind of what we see so mad. I know you you've kind of studied some of the history of some ofthe big players sociations and including the MLB Players Association.So can you talk about like from other stake holders, perspectives so fromfans and from sponsors? How does a strong players association impact impact, the sports from theirperspective? Yeah, look it's a good question and I try to want to be a a acertain way, but it's not super technical but but obviously you knowall stakeholders have a interest in well run and well governed fors to putthe athletes first right, so I mean I kind of think. If you have a look, youknow you mentioned baseball when Free Agency was was finally introduced. Whatthat kind of led to was increases in attendance, it was good for revenue hasbeen good for the value of the franchises, there's been so manydifferent ways to engage with and and watch the sport. So that's obviouslybeen good over the last thirty or forty years for all allstate holders and I think,there's still a lot of potential upside and other sports for that to kind ofarm be unlocked. POLINA. I want to finish with thinking about more about the Olympic sport and aboutthe kind of the mini sports within the Olympic movement that don't haveindependent athlete, representation and and you've got experience with with alldifferent kind of sizes of player associations. But one of the bigimpediment that I see to player, associations and Olympic sport is thatsome of these sports, like cross country skiing, my sport, happensalmost entirely internationally, and so you don't have national leagues and youdon't have kind of the same uniform rules at thenet each national level that you do in a lot of the sports that we've beentalking about today. So how do you see athe representation working for sportslike cross country skiing, where the competitions are all international, thethe Legal Dir jurisdiction to change every week, depending on what countryyou're in I mean? Is it possible to have strong player Associations inSports, like that? I think it is possible to have- even if I don't knowtoo much about cross country skiing but the while, when it is more typical forplayer Assistin to work from the bottom and then to you know to to it up,starting at the national level, then joining, maybe some European them someglobal associations. We have, for example, an example oforganization called Disciplis Alliance, which is a organization of Women'swriters, and I think, for similar reasons, you know that the fact thatthe competition is more relevant and organized at the international level.They thought that was the better organizing model to have from the startand international organization, and they are actually a...

...really good example. I think ororganization there is developing point well precisely also for a very, verymotivated and very skilled person who has been leaning them. Of course it is,it is difficult they are telling that they are facing their own challenges. You know, in addition, in addition toto the ones that we have touched upon, I think also in individual sports intravel in tic sports. There's always this. I guess fear of sports retaliation- maybe a lot more strong than in in team sports right. It's quite easy to finishsomeone's career in the individual sport in you know it's not always the decision of WHO's being picked forthe team. It always have a element ofsubjectivity, so I think, there's always a bigger fear in that area, soeven for example, in the in sport that I used to practice intoto at some point in France, which is one of the strongest countries in thisport. We have seen attempts to organize athletes and to start aplay, athlete Assisian well, basically in it stopped becauseof this reason you know at least where were a little bit reluctant to join,because they were a bit afraid what would happen and when this is part ofreally hostile, environment and and laport organization, being quite clearabout than not wanting this organization to exist, it's quiteunderstandable that that would happen, but you know it can exist, and then thiscan be quite developed. I think, for example, there is- and I haven'thaven't known that until recently, but there is a collective bargainingagreement in badminton in den work, so it is possible in the in the Olympicsports and frankly, there is no reason why this model would not function. Itis already functioning and other organizations that strictly represent Olympic athletes, that we have thatI've mentioned already they're. Also, you know they have thistype of relationship. It may not be that strict. You know model focusedaround collecting bargaining agreement as it is in the US, for example, butthey are in negotiations with with their reports counterpart they're.Having agreement there, having no, I will say as as much as I should. Ofcourse it's still work in progress. That's the idea. I think it's to someextent it is. It is not a genuine distinction. Youknow, I think it is, is something that this rhetoric of yeah okay, there are some player unions,but it's only professional sports and in Olympic sports is the best to havean athlete commission. I I'm not really buying that as a fair, a yeah. No, Ithink, Polanis put it really well, you know, I kind of think it goes back tothe point that I said you know in sure these sports governing bodies have aresponsibility, and there was a report done by the IO C's own experts. Thatkind of make that responsibility clear that you know they should be creating aenvironment which respects the riot of athletes. To you know, freedom ofassociation and the right to collectively bargaining, which isessentially forming player associations, and- and I think you know it is encouraging to see thedevelopment of some of these new groups and look- I think I'd say this onbehalf of Pauline around myself- that there's a lot of lessons and historyand so on, to learn from our movement in terms of how to go about doing thisembracing this commitment to you know a collective play of voice and organizing and so on. So there's a lot of lessonsand resources, and so on out there that I'm sure what happen to shit yeah andnext week our entire episode is going to be focused on the AthleticsAssociation of the International Swimmers Alliance to Brian Newindependent voices of athletes in athletics and swimming. So lots more to come. There we're going tounderstand kind of the hurdles that they they're facing, as they tried tokind of gain some strength, so we will leave it there. Mat Graham, is thedirector of legal and player relation to the world players. AssociationPallina Tom Chick, is the general secretary of EU athletes. Thank youboth so much for your time and your insights, that's it for this episode of theGlobal Athlete podcast. As always, please get in touch with anyquestions or comments. You can reach us at Hello, a global athlete dot org orat global athlete, H, q on twitter and instagram. We need your help inpromoting the global athlete podcast. You can help us out by leaving a ratingreview on Apple podcast or wherever you listen. You can also tell your friendsabout us or post about some social media. We want more people to join theconversation about power, accountability and Athlete Rites inInternational Sport.

Our team includes Gree, Shaf, RobKeeler and Julia Barton. I'm Noah Hoffman see you next week. I.

In-Stream Audio Search


Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (15)