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Player union representatives from eastern Europe assembled at FIFPro headquarters (September 21-22) to address growing concerns about the fragile state of club football in their region.

Twenty-nine officials from 18 countries came to the two-day legal seminar in Hoofddorp, the Netherlands, in a private strategic meeting organised by FIFPro to help the associations develop new ways to tackle their specific issues.

Union representatives discussed how to help rebalance European club football as leagues become increasingly distorted, both financially and in sporting terms. Suggestions included a fairer model of revenue distribution, rigorous club licensing, and a ‘fit and proper persons’ test for top executives.

The critical role of UEFA in enforcing the rules and applying firm sanctions where appropriate was addressed, with suggestions raised to deny clubs access to UEFA competitions in countries where they do not respect labour law.

FIFPro has long championed the need for standard labour contracts to be made mandatory. Presently, this is not the case in countries like Slovenia, Croatia, Romania and the Czech Republic where players are self-employed and have less secure working conditions as a result.

Much of the debate at FIFPro House, near Amsterdam, centred on the chronic problem of players going unpaid for months on end. At some leading clubs, delegates heard, there is a two-tier system in which star players – hired to keep fans happy - receive their wages on time, while other squad members are more likely to experience payment delays.

Lesser-known players have so-called grace periods written into their contracts which means they are paid later, according to Dejan Stefanovic, a FIFPro board member and President of SPINS, the Slovenian players union. Often, they will be paid after administrative staff, he added.

“There is a big difference between the contracts of the star players and everyone else," Stefanovic said.

In Russia, clubs “first sign contracts and then they look for the money” to honor them according to Vladimir Leonchenko, president of the Russia’s Union of Football Players and Coaches. “We need a healthier model.”

Serbia’s player union has had to contract four additional lawyers because it has so many cases of players chasing up unpaid wages, the head of the union, Mirko Poledica, said.

''The situation is getting worse,” Poledica said.

The Serbian federation has agreed to introduce licensing rules from the start of the 2017-18 season, although as it stands as many as 10 of the 16 top-tier clubs would fail the proposed requirements, Poledica said.

More than 41 percent of players in eastern Europe reported payment delays in a survey conducted by FIFPro in 2012.

New research will be released in late 2016 showing the current state of non-payment across the globe. The report, which is the largest ever study of employment conditions in professional football, analyses responses from nearly 15,000 players in Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia/Oceania.

Photo (below): The two-day seminar at FIFPro House, near Amsterdam, included union representatives from Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Malta, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Romania, Turkey, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Greece, Poland, Montenegro and Russia.

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