The PFA - A time for reflection

Given Brendan Schwab’s recent resignation from the PFA, I thought it timely to look at some of the achievements of Brendan and the PFA.

Given Brendan Schwab-s recent resignation from the PFA, I thought it timely to look behind the scenes at some of the achievements that Brendan and the PFA have to their credit over the years.

Too often, much of the nitty gritty work done at the coalface by the PFA goes unnoticed and perhaps even undervalued. But as a former PFA Executive member and a PFA Life member, I know as well as anyone the important role they play in collective bargaining agreements and player rights in general.

I-d also like to touch on the legacy of Brendan as an individual, and the profile of his successor and some of the key challenges they will face.

A summary of the achievements that the PFA can be proud of, as recently summarised by PFA President, Simon Colosimo, makes impressive reading:

• the PFA is a highly respected and financially independent stakeholder in Australian and world football; • all key membership groups - the Socceroos, Matildas and A-League - are protected by long term collective bargaining agreements. The PFA-s preparations for their renegotiation in 2012/13 are well advanced; • Australian players throughout the world continue to turn to the PFA for support at times of need. Around 160 players annually seek individual legal assistance and support where, for example, they have had their contracts unjustly terminated or for assistance in contract negotiations, transfers, image rights or dealings with agents; • the PFA provides vital services to players off the field with their education and in developing a career away from the game. The PFA Education Fund supports players in pursuing a wide variety of educational opportunities, and the FFA/PFA My Football Career program ensures every player has access to tailored and independent career advice; • the PFA is the leading players- union in Asia and Oceania, and has led the development of FIFPro Asia which now represents players associations in 6 countries including Japan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand; and • the PFA-s work in the community has been ground-breaking. The PFA Heroes program sees our members deliver an 8 week values based curriculum to children in need by spending a day a week with them in their school. Such a deep involvement of the part of players to a community program is unprecedented.

Brendan is the ultimate team-player. Demanding of himself and of those around him, his primary focus has always been the welfare and interests of the players. His single-mindedness has perhaps won him few friends on occasion, but it is this same drive for achieving what he believes is the fair and equitable result for his members that has underpinned the achievements set out above.

His background as an industrial relations lawyer, combined with his enthusiasm for the game itself has been a perfect match over the years. Since 1993, there has only ever been one other long-term incumbent in the CEO role, and that was fellow lawyer and ex-NSL player, John Didulica, now Football Operations Manager at Melbourne Heart.

The CEO role requires a very specific skill-set that will not be readily available in the regular businessman. An understanding of the complex rules and regulations of FIFA and the FFA, combined with a general understanding of the legal system of Australia needs to be mixed with a feel and understanding for the sport and the industry itself, including its myriad of stakeholders. It is certainly not a role for the enthusiastic amateur, or the generic CEO that floats between industries.

The incoming CEO will have to tackle the thorny issue of contractual security, an issue highlighted by the demise of the Knights, the Fury, Gold Coast and the current situation at Newcastle. The forthcoming CBA negotiations also shape up as being a critical issue, though Brendan will continue to advise in a consultancy role.

Few people will realise the long hours, late night phone calls, exhausting travel schedule and other personal sacrifices that Brendan has made over the years for the PFA. On a personal level, Brendan-s patient advice and dogged approach to pursuing my claim regarding compensation for a serious career ending back injury has been invaluable. I for one would like to take this opportunity to salute him, and say thank you for everything he has done for the game over a period of almost 20 years.

Thankfully, he will not be completely lost to the sport. Building on his current role as Chairman of FIFPro Asia, Schwab will devote more time to the world player's union, where he will continue to develop the voice of professional player's throughout Asia and Oceania. He will also support all Australian players through his role as general secretary at the Australian Athletes' Alliance.

Once again, thanks Brendan, and good luck - your successor has big shoes to fill.