The role of a PFA delegate has never been more important given the immediate challenges facing Australian football in the wake of coronavirus.

During a typical season, a PFA delegate is charged with the responsibility of engaging their teammates, providing timely updates on collective bargaining negotiations, sharing information on player support services, and outlining the structural conditions in which players are employed.

Along with helping players influence the game’s key decision-makers, delegates help their fellow footballers to shape their lives off the pitch and careers on it. 

However, since coronavirus has rocked the foundations of global sport, the role has become exponentially more influential.

Players’ health, livelihoods and the very future of the game loom as palpable challenges that require thoughtful and careful resolution.

‘The players want to know’

Western United’s 23-year-old defender, Jonathan Aspropotamitis – the youngest A-League delegate – has a big responsibility in helping shape how the A-League season may recommence, and under what conditions.

Since coronavirus brought the A-League to a standstill, Aspro – as he is known by his teammates – and fellow delegates across the league have had daily conversations about the potential structure of a league restart. There have been multiple Zoom calls within clubs, across the league and with the FFA, with the delegates having had regular dialogue with the governing body’s senior management.

The complexion of those negotiations and discussions have been vastly different to his ordinary work, with the virus throwing the competition into disarray – and impacting players’ mental health, livelihoods and the game’s short-term future.

“As a player, you really want to know what’s happening at all times,” Aspro tells “You’re talking about player’s futures and proposed livelihoods. They really want to know. It’s up to us to make sure that they have all the right information and we cover all bases with them.

“There’s going to be agreements, disagreements, but it’s our job as delegates to fill the players in with all that knowledge on what’s happening to help them make the best decision.”

The way forward

It’s too early to say what a resolution looks like, but Aspro predicts the next couple of weeks will be crucial.

“Along with Dura [Andrew Durante] and Brendan Hamill [fellow Western United PFA Delegates], it’s really, really important because the next period there’s going to be a lot of meetings with the players and a lot of meetings with the clubs.

“In what’s been such a difficult period for everybody globally, not just us in football, the players have been able to come together and contribute to how the game is going to look going forward and forging an outcome, from a structural and financial standpoint.

“The players have been able to have an input into the outlook of the game and this ultimately grows the ever-strong relationship with the players and the PFA.”

For such a young player, Aspro is a leader in the making and has shown a deep passion for supporting positive outcomes for players.

‘I’ve always been really intrigued’

Despite being the youngest current A-League Delegate – Adelaide United’s Stefan Mauk (24) and Newcastle Jets’ Lachlan Jackson (25) are not far behind – Aspro has always been attracted to helping his peers.

When he joined Western Sydney Wanderers’ senior list in 2015, as an 18-year-old, he showed experience and understanding beyond his years and was identified as a delegate by Beau Busch, the PFA’s Head of Player Relations.

“When I first started at Western Sydney, Beau’s idea was to segregate each of the three delegates at each club into younger players, middle aged players and senior players,” Aspro said.

“At that time, the delegates were me, Andrew Redmayne and Scott Neville. They were kind of the middle aged and older boys and I was delegated the younger boys and started passing on the information when I could about CBA negotiations and the role of the PFA.

“I was always really intrigued because every player is interested in what’s happening in the league.

“When I first came in, I always liked to speak to the older players and get their perspective on things and get certain ideas, not just about what’s happening on the field, but also off the field as well.

“There were guys like [current PFA Executive Member] Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Mark Bridge, Shannon Cole and Brendon Santalab around me. That was great. They not only gave me advice on the pitch, but also kept me and the young players up to date on what was happening off it.”

Since he cut his teeth as a teenage delegate at the Wanderers, Aspro has since played influential roles as a player representative at Central Coast Mariners and now Western United.

‘I will be forever grateful to the PFA’

In many respects, Aspropotamitis learned the hard way about the deep level of support the PFA offers Australian footballers.

The Western Sydney youth product tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) during the Wanderers’ Y-League Grand Final win over Melbourne City in February 2018, leaving him sidelined for nine months.

“I think when you go through something like that, whether it’s a big injury or it’s a family loss or a downturn in your life, you need support, whether it be your family or friends,” Aspro said.

“With this incident, with the PFA I knew, because I was a delegate and a member, about the support systems and these services that I could use. Through that time, the PFA really, really helped me with my recovery and helped me return successfully. 

“I will be forever grateful to the PFA for that because it was a massive, massive help. You want a lot of support around you and the PFA were a big, big support base at that time of my life.”

Aspro never hesitates to share his story of hardship and recovery to young A-League players who might not know of the support available through the PFA.

“A lot of the younger players, it’s understandable that don’t necessarily have a full picture of the PFA, but I guess that’s our job as delegates to make sure that they do understand what’s happening and the support that they have in place from the PFA that they can access.”

Finding a resolution

For now, Aspro’s role in communicating the challenges to his fellow footballers will be crucial. 

Luckily for his fellow players, the league has a list of experienced, passionate and accomplished player advocates, who will ensure the players’ collective voice will be highly influential, visible and valuable during negotiations.

“It’s on me and the other delegates that we pass on our knowledge and support to them. Because of this relationship, we are able to have clarity in what lies ahead and prepare ourselves accordingly.”