By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) – Footballers will not accept any restrictions to their freedom of movement rights in the European Union, their global union said on Friday in reply to comments by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin the day before.
Ceferin said he wanted the EU to consider whether football should be given an exemption to laws allowing the free movement of labour because the current situation damaged competitive balance between clubs.
FIFPro, which represents around 60,000 professional players worldwide through its affiliates, replied that competitive balance was damaged by an unequal distribution of football revenue, rather than by EU laws.
“The free movement of workers is a fundamental pillar of the European Union,” said the Dutch-based union in statement. “Players are workers and all rights including free movement apply to them. This is non-negotiable.
“We agree that football suffers from sporting and economic imbalance and our members are the victims of that as their jobs outside the elite are deteriorating.
“The cause of this problem however is the inequitable distribution of money in our sport. FIFPro finds it unacceptable to tackle such concerns by limiting the fundamental rights of players as EU citizens.”
Ceferin, who has made addressing the inequalities in the European game a central issue, argued that if players, or young children, from small clubs or small countries leave very early it harms the competitive balance.
European club football has become increasingly dominated by a handful of elite clubs, who cherry-pick the best players and enjoy the luxury of having world class footballers on the substitutes bench.
The Champions League has been punctuated by some embarrassingly one-sided contests while many domestic leagues have turned into one-horse races.
Juventus have won the last seven Serie A titles while Bayern Munich have won six in a row in Germany. Celtic have won the last seven Scottish league titles and Dinamo Zagreb have won 12 of the last 13 titles in Croatia.
(Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)