Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) today announced the appointment of former Socceroo, National Soccer League (NSL) player and PFA Life Member Francis Awaritefe as Chair of the PFA.

Awaritefe serves on the PFA Executive and is a member of the global and Asian boards of FIFPRO, the world footballers’ association. Awaritefe is presently chair of the PFA’s Steering Committee negotiating new Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) for the professional leagues.

Awaritefe replaces Brendan Schwab, who has stepped down due to the demands of his position as Executive Director of the World Players Association, the Swiss-based global players’ union.

“It is essential that the incredible sacrifice, commitment and quality football demonstrated by the players in completing the 2019/20 A-League season despite Covid-19 is recognised in the new CBA,” Awaritefe said. 

“It is time to rebuild and reboot the professional game in Australia, which requires vision, trust, knowledge and courage. The PFA has always been a player-led organisation that demonstrates these values and I plan to ensure that this remains so.”

PFA President Alex Wilkinson, who has served alongside Awaritefe on the PFA Executive since March 2018, welcomed his appointment.

“Francis has been a central figure within the PFA’s history, a fearless leader and tireless advocate for the players,” Wilkinson said.

“As a former player he has a deep understanding of the players’ position within the game and as a FIFPro Vice President and board member contributes significant global expertise to our organisation. We welcome Francis’ appointment and thank Brendan for his incredible contribution to the players during his past four years as Chair.”

Schwab, the PFA co-founder, has served two terms as Chair – between 2005-2006 and 2016-2020 – and completes 25 years of involvement with the PFA.

“Given my commitment to Australian football, it is disappointing to be stepping down at a time when the game faces so many profound challenges and the players in the professional leagues are without the protection of a CBA,” Schwab said. 

“I am confident that under the leadership of Alex, Francis, Kate and Beau, the players will be able to negotiate new CBAs on a win-win basis to carry the game forward. After all, CBAs have been in place for all but three years since the first CBA was negotiated in 1996. Those three years were the first three of the A-League with the impasse finally being resolved through a five-year deal based on long-term thinking and unflinching solidarity among the players in Australia’s national teams and professional leagues.”

Awaritefe has been appointed until the PFA’s next Annual General Meeting.

About Francis Awaritefe

Francis Awaritefe has a long history with the PFA. He was made a PFA life member in 2000 after being a delegate and Executive member during his long NSL playing career with Melbourne Knights, South Melbourne, Marconi Stallions and Sydney United. 

Awaritefe played a leadership role in several rounds of collective bargaining in the NSL and was a driving force in the introduction of the Australian Soccer Equal Opportunity Code, which sought to address racial and religious vilification on and off the field and promote equality of opportunity for all in the game. 

He has at all times been an activist for human rights and played key roles in 2019 in supporting former PFA Chair Craig Foster in the successful campaign to save Hakeem Al-Araibi and the Matildas’ campaign for equal prize money at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Awaritefe holds an honours degree in law (LLB Hons) and Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and becomes the PFA’s fourth Chair:

  • Brendan Schwab, 2005 – 2006 and 2016 – 2020
  • John Poulakakis, 2007 – 2012 
  • Craig Foster, 2016
  • Francis Awaritefe, 2020 – 

Brendan Schwab

Brendan Schwab is the Executive Director of the World Players Association, the Swiss based global union which represents some 85,000 players across professional sport through more than 100 player associations based in more than 60 countries. 

Schwab, who co-founded the PFA in 1993 with former Socceroo and current Football Victoria President Kimon Taliadoros and acted as the union’s original lawyer, completes a 25 year involvement with the PFA. He served as PFA Chief Executive (1995 – 2003 and 2006 – 2012), Special Counsel (2012 – 2015) and Chair (2005 – 2006 and 2016 – 2020). Schwab also played a leadership role with FIFPRO, being a board member and Vice President (2009 – 2015) and co-founder and Chair of FIFPRO Asia (2007 – 2015). In 2007, he co-founded the Australian Athletes’ Alliance with the major player associations in Australian sport and acted as its part-time General Secretary between 2009 and 2015.

During his long involvement with the PFA, Schwab made key contributions to many important developments in the professional game in Australia, including the PFA itself, collective bargaining, full-time professionalism, domestic and international grievance arbitration, injury protection, player development and wellbeing, the overhaul of the domestic transfer and compensation fee system, the creation of the A-League, gender equality and the game’s deeper engagement in Asia and globally. 

In late 2003, he was a member of the NSL Task Force and shared the PFA’s $500,000 investment in market research and knowledge to design and build a new national competition, work which largely informed the body’s recommendations. Schwab was made a PFA Life Member in 2003 and became one of four PFA Champions in 2018.