On Saturday, Brendan Schwab, the Executive Chairman of the Australian Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), the exclusive collective bargaining agent of professional footballers who represent the Socceroos and play in the A-League, issued the following statement in relation to the management of the players of New Zealand Knights (Knights)

“The events of the last few days raise fundamental questions about the value of contracts signed by A-League players and the culture of player relations that Football Federation Australia (FFA) wishes to create. These are issues that not only affect all players throughout the league, they go to the heart of the game in the era of “new football” – the viability of which is largely dependent on the quality of the on-field product delivered by the players.

“It is important to understand one key issue: at no time did FFA offer to honour the players’ contracts. On Friday, FFA required the players to sign new contracts for 5 weeks when most existing contracts are due to run for between another 6 and 18 months. FFA made it clear that if the new contracts were not signed, a team of replacement players would be recruited to represent the Knights in time for tomorrow’s match against Melbourne Victory.

“To submit players to ultimatums and threats where they seek to act collectively or obtain independent professional advice about their situation is unacceptable, especially when that situation is one of financial hardship beyond the control of the players concerned. To threaten to use replacement players where current players can’t comply with those ultimatums makes a mockery of the A-League competition and totally ignores the fact that players are human beings with families and careers to safeguard.

“Accordingly, the PFA sought the opportunity for the players to receive professional advice and to negotiate with FFA to ensure the ongoing employment of the players with the Knights on the same terms as their terminated contracts and, as a minimum, in accordance with FFA’s own regulations which require all player contracts to expire on 30 June. At all times, the players expressed their commitment to playing for the Knights.

“Following discussions with the FFA, the PFA and the players have agreed to play for the remainder of the season, providing their existing legal rights are preserved and FFA and the PFA commit to good faith negotiations to resolve what is a difficult matter for all parties in a professional and cooperative manner.

“Despite our disappointment with these events, the PFA remains committed to building a partnership between the game’s management and players. The best professional sports throughout the world do so. The PFA understands that establishing the A-League is a complex and risky business enterprise. To succeed, it must be market driven, and players have particular responsibilities to market and promote the game. Equally, good ethics and commercial practice require FFA to commit to the sustainable success of all teams in key markets and protect the players who provide the basis for the relationship between each team and their fans.

“Perth Glory is the only instance of FFA assuming an A-League licence. In this instance, all player entitlements have been met, and FFA’s actions have secured the presence of the A-League in a crucial market. Similarly, regulations in many football countries require all player contracts to be honoured where a club is under administration and its ownership is transferred. This must surely be the approach in the A-League in all instances.

“The PFA would like to acknowledge the exceptional service of the PFA’s sister organisation, the New Zealand Professional Footballers’ Association, which has provided urgent professional support and advice to the players and, together with the PFA, is one of 42 member nations of FIFPro, the world footballers’ union.”