With their members now facing an uncertain future, Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) has launched a series of measures designed to mitigate wellbeing challenges during football's COVID-19 enforced hiatus.
The union, which represents Australia’s professional footballers in both the A-League and overseas, on Thursday unveiled a series of new content to support its members during the A-League's suspension - which will be reviewed by the FFA on April 22 at the earliest.
In collaboration with partner The Mind Room, mental health and wellbeing advice links have been collated; as well career and education tools and fitness advice – including an isolation program designed by renowned high-performance expert Dr Craig Duncan.
Guidance on how to source support from various government and private enterprise measures designed to aid individuals and their families as the economic impact of COVID-19 is felt have also been assembled.
“During this heightened period of uncertainty, our paramount focus is on the health and wellbeing of our 700 members across some 35 countries, which inevitably incorporates their financial stability,” PFA Chief Executive John Didulica said.
“We have committed significant resources to support members through this confronting time.
“It is clear; however, that increasing numbers are vulnerable to mental health challenges.
“Many have been in insecure work for a long time, many [over 120 players had been set to conclude their contracts on May 31] will become unemployed at the end of May and many may become unemployable in the medium term given the lack of alternate employment opportunities.”
The concerns the PFA holds for its members has been heightened amidst reports that some A-League clubs will cease payments to its players as the fiscal repercussions of the game’s enforced hiatus begin to bite.
Hearing reports that A-League players have been told that some clubs will continue to pay players while others won’t.— Lucy Zelić (@LucyZelic) March 27, 2020
One player contacted by FTBL admitted he was unsure of if his pay would arrive – saying he would ultimately find out next payday.
Though not commenting directly on the speculation, Didulica did warn against clubs taking steps in the short-term that could provide more uncertainty for its players.
“If [player welfare] was to be compounded by adverse steps from clubs in the immediate term, it would be nothing short of reckless and a gross breach of their duty of care to their players,” he said.
“Players who, less than a week ago, were prepared to risk their own health and committed to periods of isolation and uncertain travel arrangements to support their clubs.”
Already on Friday, Football Federation Australia announced that 70% of its staff would be stood-down due to the fallout of the global pandemic, whilst Football South Australia – who was the first member federation to suspend football in the face of COVID-19 – has been forced to stand-down 80% of staff.
“This has been an extremely difficult decision to make, but necessary to stabilize the organisation so that it can continue to service the game, albeit in a vastly different landscape,” FFA Chief Executive James Johnson said of the FFA stand-downs.