Eighteen years ago the world of football was revolutionised when the Bosman ruling was handed down on the 15th of December 1995. The revolution came early in Australia when the transfer and compensation fee system was abolished six months prior to the Bosman ruling. The PFA speaks to the player that led the Australian revolution and sparked reform.

The question of what was the motivation behind the stand is answered swiftly. “Footballers have a unique relationship with the game and it is usually a lifetime relationship and it is a sophisticated one,” KimonTaliadoros says. “This relationship means that the success of the game and its well being matters, so when something effects the game it hurts players because we want to be proud of the environment we work in and the profession.”

This motivation was what drove the moment Taliadoros describes as the “spark” for the reforms of Australian football. At the end of 1991-1992 NSL season the out of contract striker was eager to leave his then club South Melbourne for Marconi. Despite being out of contract this was beyond his control. For the move to occur Marconi would first have to meet South Melbourne’s demand for what was then termed a ‘compensation fee.’

Common practice throughout the world in football at the time the transfer and compensation fee system enabled clubs to hang on to players despite having had their contracts expire. In essence players were owned by the clubs. With the help of then articled clerk Brendan Schwab, Taliadoros was able to negotiate his transfer to Marconi, with South Melbourne settling on a compensation fee of $43,000.

Despite having got his move to Marconi the then 24-year-old was resolved to end the rule that he and the majority of the playing group saw as stifling both their careers and the progression of football in Australia.

“Every player to a man either wanted to do one of two things. They either wanted to get out as quickly as they could and pursue their careers elsewhere, or be part of a professional environment where they could be proud.

“As a player there was so much uncertainty, which was created by the environment,” said the former Socceroo. “At the conclusion of an employment contract one was not in complete control of ones next move. The players recognised that there were significant restraints, which were also operating to the detriment of the clubs. Because there was a lack of professionals working in clubs they had not done the analysis to understand this.”

Following the establishment of what is now known as the PFA the players began to seek reform. After first trying discussion with Soccer Australia, in the hope of yielding a positive outcome, the PFA then took the matter of the transfer and compensation fee system to the Industrial Relations Commission. Having seen FIFA sanction clubs and players who had tried to overturn this rule previously the key to this challenge would be the inability of the world governing to get involved in the matter. Schwab made this possible.

“The approach the PFA took through Brendan’s insight in particular was from the rule of law, which was in the ordinary course of law when an employment contract ceases there are no restrictions on an employee, “said the now Football Federation Victoria Director. “It was as simple as that and it was brought back to that fundamental level and that was the basis that it was  challenged at the Industrial Relations Commission.”

“Naturally FIFA in all its derestriction’s had resisted change. It just so happened that Brendan was smart enough to realise that if we could find the scope to just domestic football there was not a role for FIFA, which meant it was just a matter for Soccer Australia, as it was then.”

In front of a full-bench at the Industrial Relations Commission in June 1995 the transfer and compensation system that had severely restricted players freedom and stifled the game was abolished. Having witnessed the effect it had had on his career and his peers Taliadoros said the expectation was that it would mark the start of a new dawn. It soon became clearly apparent that would not be the case.

“All it meant was that we had leverage, we didn’t even get to the point where there was good faith or a move towards working together from a collective perspective recognising that the law had made a decision,” said the PFA Life Member. “We were still back to negotiating with the same people who held the same views and were resistant. It didn’t change anything except the fact that we had better leverage and as a result of that we were better able to ensure better outcomes then we had previously. With the decision we had leverage with which we could negotiate.”

Just six months after the Australian transfer and compensation fee system was abolished the decision would receive a massive boost when the Bosman ruling was handed down. “The Bosman ruling gave it the credibility because all of a sudden the clubs thought it must be right because the rest of the world had endorsed that decision through the European equivalent.”

Having received important backing from the Bosman ruling the players continued the fight for reform. Bound in solidarity with each other through the PFA they carried on the fight with the same motivation – to improve Australian football.

“The PFA and the players had to start the reform process because the game was incapable of managing it itself. What we were seeking was accountability. Accountability to the law, accountability to one another and to the stakeholders in football and that is only possible if there is a framework – Collective Bargaining Aggreements and Standard Player Contracts.”

Despite having seen huge reform and progress in the game in the last decade the inaugural PFA CEO said more was still needed to ensure the game fulfilled its potential.

“There has been fundamental reform, from an operational perspective I still understand that there is still issues and a lack of commitment to the integrity of a respectful relationship between a club and a player. Until that changes and until players are valued as individuals and regarded as a key part of a club’s success and not treated as commodities the collective value will also be limited.”
In seeking a better relationship the players motivation for doing so will remain the same as it has always been.