Thirty years ago, on 27 April 1993, the PFA was established with two key objectives: to support the players and build the game.

Armed with that mission, the PFA, through the collective strength of Australia’s professional football players, has helped transform the professional game and the lives and careers of countless professional players.

Those 30 years since the PFA’s formation mark the PFA as the longest established stakeholder in the professional game in Australia, with the key to its longevity – the players. 

In the early years, the organisation, formed as the “Australian Soccer Players’ Association”, faced a myriad of challenges, with the association emerging in response to, and during, a period of great turbulence in Australian football. 

Three decades ago, the football landscape in Australia was starkly different to the one that exists today: player contracts could be terminated on seven days’ notice by clubs without cause, there were no minimum employment standards, and the transfer system at the time treated players as if they were the property of their clubs. The response of the players’ union movement – at home and throughout the world – to these challenges has been phenomenal.

The establishment of a guaranteed standard player contract, the abolition of the domestic transfer and compensation fee system, the creation of national team and league collective bargaining agreements and of new domestic competitions were only achieved because the PFA fought vigorously for what was in the best interests of the game and the players.

Through the PFA, Australian footballers now enjoy significantly improved high performance conditions, salaries, freedom of movement and world class collective bargaining agreements, including the historic 2019 CBA which delivered equal pay for the Socceroos and Matildas, and programs that protect and advance their wellbeing, education and development off the pitch.

Among many achievements across three decades of representation and advocacy on behalf of the players, the PFA:

  • Led the football reform movement in Australia at the turn of the century which, among other things, resulted in the creation of the A-Leagues;
  • won the abolition of Transfer and Compensation Fee System before the Full Bench of Australian Industrial Relations Commission;
  • negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) for Socceroos, Matildas and A-Leagues players that established player rights and reflect the dignity, professionalism and quality associated with earning a living from playing the world’s greatest and most important game;
  • struck the first-ever CBA for professional women’s players in 2017;
  • established the PFA Player Development Program and Past Players Programs that support players off the pitch and with their life after football;
  • advanced the legal position of professional players in Australia, including their right to freedom of movement, contract security, protection when injured and access to a fair dispute resolution system within the football framework; and 
  • promoted players’ work in the community and a platform for them to reinvest into charities via the Footballers’ Trust.

Kimon Taliadoris, who was present at the inaugural meeting of the players’ union on 27 April 1993 and helped to found the organisation alongside former CEO, Chair, Life Member and PFA Champion Brendan Schwab, reflected on the players’ early desire for collective representation.

“The rights of workers, the obligations of employers and the right of collective bargaining were all absent from the game in 1993, and from that particular cohort of employees, the players,” Taliadoros said reflecting on the inaugural meeting held with fellow Socceroos John Kosmina, Stan Lazaridis, Oscar Crino and Greg Brown in 1993.

“At that meeting there were like-minded players who felt that there were better ways and better conditions that the players deserved and should fight for. There were strong personalities, capable players, and aspirational ones, not just for themselves, but for their clubs and Australian football. 

“Right from those early days, we genuinely thought that the players’ voice would always add value to the decision-making process.”

Today, the PFA remains a powerful voice for professional footballers in Australia. With a strong track record of advocacy and negotiation, the organisation continues to push for better conditions and greater recognition for players in the sport, and a driving force for football to deliver a better nation.

Former Matilda and current Co-Chief Executive of the PFA, Kathryn Gill, joined the organisation in 2012 as a Matildas delegate, said the players’ voice remains as important as ever as professional football seeks to fulfill its enormous potential. 

“Since the PFA’s foundation, the players have driven incredible outcomes for the industry and for their careers. The players, as always, are the ones driving the organisation forward in pursuit of better conditions and a better industry.

“Despite those incredible achievements across the past three decades, the same challenges around protecting and advancing the rights of players and improving our industry exist today. Our responsibility as a sport is to ensure we invest in every professional player’s career and safeguard, protect, and promote the best interests of the game and the players and do so through genuine partnership with the A-Leagues and Football Australia.”