FIFPro represents more than 60,000 players and the WLF represents 45 national professional leagues, including the Premier League and Major League Soccer in the United States, and there is deep frustration that Ifab has to challenge such a powerful lobby group.
Nobby Stiles died in 2020 of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a type of dementia caused by impacts to the head, and his son John believes players must now be willing to stand up for their own safety. He is also critical of the PFA’s funding deal, which is heavily dependent on broadcast revenue from the Premier League, and how that could compromise his approach.
‘If the players had a proper union they would be threatening to go on strike’
“If your health was at risk in any other industry, you would be talking about a strike,” Stiles said. “So where is the union? The model is broken. It is not fit for purpose. If the players had a proper union, they would be threatening to go on strike.
“Thousands of players have died from repetitive headbutts. It is a matter of time before the players die on the field. Second impact syndrome is incredibly dangerous.”
Stiles says he has written to all 92 clubs in the professional pyramid, as well as the Women’s Super League, offering to speak to players about the risks of repetitive head butting and concussion.
“I’m not against heading but players have a right to know the risk,” Stiles said, describing his efforts to access players through his sticks as “like hitting a brick wall.”
The PFA, the Premier League and the Football Association have been pushing for temporary concussion substitutes to be introduced.
Dawn Astle, whose father Jeff died 21 years ago to CTE’s day and heads the PFA’s new dementia department, accused soccer lawmakers of “holding back on player safety.”
Professor Willie Stewart, the Glasgow neuropathologist who found CTE at autopsy in the brains of Nobby Stiles and Jeff Astle, added: “Welcome to 2023. Unless you’re the football rule makers who are still in the last century.” .
A joint statement from FIFPro and the WLF said they would “consider our options moving forward” and there has been some private talk about whether a league could simply ignore Ifab’s ‘Laws of the Game’ and bring in their own temporary concussion substitutes.
Some lawyers have also argued that football is leaving itself open to legal action by a player if its concussion protocols could be argued to be inadequate. A statement by FIFPro and WLF noted that they were signatories to the Global Labor Agreement, which follows the rights at work set out by the United Nations International Labor Organization.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Ifab said “no consensus was reached” on temporary concussion substitutes and the issue remained under review. He also said he would seek to improve the ongoing, indefinite trial of permanent concussion substitutes.
Comment: Ifab’s intransigence is disconcerting
Dr Adam White, Head of Brain Health, Professional Footballers Association
Behind closed doors at Wembley, football’s Ifab lawmakers met this week to decide whether to allow tests of temporary concussion substitutions to be introduced.
That decision was the result of a request backed by a variety of player unions and leagues, including the Professional Footballers’ Association and the Premier League.
The request was simple. Allowing leagues to introduce temporary concussion substitution testing as a way to support medical personnel and provide them with a valuable additional tool to ensure that concussion evaluations are as effective and safe as possible.
The answer was ‘no’. Despite support from the English Football Association, one of the Ifab members, the message was that we would not see temporary concussion substitutes any time soon.
Describing that decision as a disappointment really doesn’t do it justice. For many, including those like the PFA who have lobbied and campaigned so intensively for its introduction, it is simply baffling.
It’s a decision that also raises fundamental questions about the relationship between the game and those who play it.
As for temporary concussion replacements, we have reached a point in the English game where the players’ union, the Premier League and the governing body support their introduction and believe it is a measure that will better protect the safety of players. players. A similar consensus exists among stakeholders in France and the United States.
However, they are being stopped by those who make the laws.
There is a serious problem if the game gets ahead of its legislators on issues of player safety. MLS, along with its players’ union, the MLSPA, was seeking permission to begin testing when its domestic season begins next month. They firmly believe that it is the right thing to do.
Once again, they have been told no. What are the ramifications if a serious player safety incident now occurs, one where there is even the slightest suggestion that a temporary concussion substitution protocol might have been beneficial? How does this decision impact, for example, the Collective Bargaining Agreements between player unions and leagues and the stance they take on player safety measures? Can they really agree to take all measures to better protect the safety of players?
Unions and leagues will now meet to discuss next steps in the coming days. Those talks will involve FIFPro, the global players union, and their counterparts at the World Leagues Forum.
The consensus and momentum behind temporary concussion substitutions has never been greater. High-profile concussion incidents and widespread concerns about the effectiveness of current measures had focused minds and warranted increased scrutiny.
Now there is much more awareness among gamers about their security. That’s not just true in football, but in all of sport. There is increased consideration of long-term health impacts and, crucially, the responsibility your sport has to make sure they are protected.
Despite that, with its approach to concussion protocols, soccer has once again allowed itself to be seen as falling behind on a key issue of player safety.