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Damiano Tommasi, president of Italian players association AIC since 2011, is joining FIFPro’s global board in December with Geremi, Francis Awaritefe and Lucien Valloni. FIFPro spoke to the former Italy and AS Roma player about his work in his home country and his new role.

FIFPro: What ideas have you implemented in Italy that would you like to share with other player unions?

I always tell the Italian national team players: Even if you don’t want to, you represent all footballers in this country – including lower-league players experiencing difficulties. National team players Leonardo Bonucci (above left, receiving the AIC player of the year award from Tommasi in February), Giorgio Chiellini and Riccardo Montolivo have joined our board. Since last year we have started to have our board meetings at Coverciano (a Florence suburb) where the national team meets to prepare for friendly matches or qualifiers to make sure that they can be present.

The truth is that these top players want to know what is happening in the lower leagues. It’s not that they don’t know or don’t care about the lower leagues, it’s just that journalists don’t ask them about these things. We're returning to the past -- AIC was founded 50 years ago by 10 national team players.

I hope more top players become involved in other player associations. It’s difficult because working for a union is like signing up for problems and national-team players – myself included - receive job offers which come without problems: working as a television pundit, or on the coaching staff of a team. 

 

FIFPro: Some 32% of players in Italy have been threatened by fans, third-highest among 53 countries in FIFPro’s 2016 player survey. Can you explain why this is?

It has become normal in Italy that when you lose fans are waiting outside the stadium to criticize you and act violently. It’s difficult to change that mentality. Some fans think the players are their employees.

The government has agreed to our request to set up a commission to look into violence against players. The government has also agreed that, from this season, clubs can throw fans out of stadiums and suspend their membership. They have not been able to do this until now because Italian legislation did not permit this. We have to decide what kind of supporters we want in our stadiums.

Supporters need and want footballers to share this history with them but one day players are in one club, and the next in another. There are only a few footballers like Francesco Totti and Paolo Maldini, who stay all their career at one club and can truly be fans of the club they play for.

FIFPro: Match-fixing is also a problem in Italy.

Violence in Italian football is not new but match-fixing is something that has emerged since I became president of AIC in 2011. It is a risk for all football categories, from amateur level right up to the national team.

Lower leagues, where matches which are not televised, are an especially attractive target for mafia to launder money. The government’s anti-mafia committee wants to stop betting on these kind of games.

FIFPro: What is your opinion of the transfer market?

The transfer fees are being shared among the top divisions and not reaching the lower leagues (*). What’s more, only 10% of television rights in Italy goes to clubs outside Serie A and that is one of the themes that the Italian government is going to look at.

Then there is the issue of selling a person. To value a person is not normal and to have footballers as assets on the balance sheet of a club is not normal. There should be clear rules how a player can change clubs – before he begins his contract. Today, a club can decide whether a player leaves or not.

(*) In Italy, during the last transfer window the 80 second and third-tier teams combined received about ten times less transfer income than the 20 top-tier clubs, according to transfermarkt.com data.

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Above: New FIFPro board members Tommasi and Geremi at FIFPro headquarters last week.

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