Union wants players protected in Eastern Europe

Union wants players protected in Eastern Europe

Published Apr. 12, 2011 2:44 p.m. ET

Footballers in Eastern Europe need better protection from violence, racism and match-fixing gangs, the worldwide players' union said on Tuesday.

FIFPro said it will create a regional task force to recommend action, and wants backing from FIFA and UEFA plus Europe's clubs and leagues.

The union cited recent incidents in Russia where Montenegrin player Nikola Nikezic was beaten into terminating his contract with FC Kuban and Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos was racially insulted by a Zenit St. Petersburg fan.

''FIFPro assumes its responsibility and calls on everyone else involved to do the same,'' said Philippe Piat, European president of the umbrella group of unions.


Describing players as ''very vulnerable'' to approaches from fixers, FIFPro said its task force would spread advice among existing national unions.

''Research shows that some criminal organizations in Eastern Europe put objectionable pressure on players to cooperate in bribery scandals,'' the Netherlands-based organization said.

FIFPro pointed to concerns that UEFA suspended two players from Hungarian champion Debrecen just for failing to report being contacted by fixers before a Champions League match in 2009. Goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic and defender Norbert Meszaros are awaiting verdicts from the Court of Arbitration for Sport after they appealed bans of two years and 18 months, respectively.

Clubs in Romania, Russia and Serbia have reportedly failed to pay players, and FIFPro says members in Cyprus and Greece also have had problems getting their salary.

Greece also has a growing reputation for violent attacks by fans on players inside stadiums, FIFPro said.

''There is no doubt that FIFA and UEFA will agree with FIFPro that all their affiliated member associations should guarantee that all professional footballers in their leagues can do their job safely and also get paid for it,'' Piat said in a statement.

Piat said FIFPro looked for action from high-ranking Eastern European members at the world and European governing bodies.

They include two former Zenit presidents in Vitaly Mutko, Russia's sports minister who sits on FIFA's high command, and Sergei Fursenko, who was elected to UEFA's ruling panel last month.

Fursenko leads the Russian football federation, which fined Zenit $10,000 after a fan handed Roberto Carlos a banana on arriving to play a match for his new club Anzhi Makhachkala last month.

FIFPro said it worked with Russian union officials to help Nikezic get $256,000 from FC Kuban to settle his contract after they publicized his case.

However, the union deserved greater status there, FIFPro general secretary Theo van Seggelen said.

''We still need to make some progress in Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia,'' Van Seggelen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. ''And we desperately need players' unions in Serbia, Czech Republic and Slovakia.''