Unionization efforts in local football hitting the woodwork

Unionization efforts in local football hitting the woodwork

ANKARA - Anatolia News Agency
Unionization efforts in local football hitting the woodwork

Former left-winger Metin Kurt continued his unionization efforts in Turkish football for decades until he passed away in August this year. AA photo

Turkish football players’ dreams of unionization, which started with Beşiktaş football club striker Şükrü Gülesin in the 1950s, continue today with the most recent efforts of Futbol-Sen. However, these attempts are still a far cry from the benefits received by their European counterparts.

Turkish efforts to unionize football players first began when Gülesin was first introduced to football player unions when he went to Italy in 1950 to play for Palermo and later Lazio. Subsequently, when he returned to Turkey in 1965 he set up the Futbol-İş union and the “Professional Football Players, Trainers, Managers and Monitors Union.” Neither of these unions was able to enlist much more than two squads worth of football players, and they were later shut down.

Coup closes union
The next attempt at unionization came under the Professional Footballers Association (PFD) and the Amateur Footballers Association (AFD) umbrella in 1974 through the efforts of Galatasaray football player Metin Kurt.

Beşiktaş’s Mehmet Ekşi and Trabzonspor’s legendry player and current manager Şenol Güneş joined the efforts but these two unions were shut down after the Sept. 12 1980 military coup. Kurt, who passed away in August this year, later helped found the Spor-Sen union, but this was not until 2009-2010. The latest efforts at unionization are Futbol-Sen, or the Football Workers Union, which kicked off on Oct. 8 with the slogan “We stand by all of our football workers.” The aim of the union is to ensure that all people employed in the football sector are considered professional workers with all their due rights under Turkey’s labor laws with a percentage of the commission for sporting events and broadcasts.

In contrast to Turkey, football unionization in Europe began as early as the 1900s. For example, England’s first union for football players, Professional Footballers Union (PFA) was launched on Dec. 2, 1907. This is the world’s first football players union and has more than 4,000 members, including David Beckham. FIFpro is another well known union that spans 11 countries. It was set up in Holland in 1965 and has more than 50,000 players as members. It has representatives in African and Asian countries, but does not have representation in Turkey.

Despite a recent verbal support from Labor Minister Faruk Çelik, some prominent figures such as manager Fatih Terim, and players including Hakan Şükür, Emre Belözoğlu, Saffet Sancaklı and Kemalettin Şentürk, domestic footballers still seem far away from reaching such a goal.