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A new FIFPRO report has found that abuse by fans, whether that be physical, verbal or otherwise, is currently having a tremendous effect on player welfare in the men's game.
Due to the vast amounts of wealth that a footballer often has as a result of their job, much of society, including some fans of the sport, fail to take player welfare seriously as they ‘already get paid too much and should stop complaining'.
This report, however, highlights exactly why this isn't the case and just how serious abuse from fans can be for a player's wellbeing.
FIFPRO report details growing concern for player welfare
Who are FIFPRO?
FIFPRO are a trade union and ensures that the concerns and opinions of each national union are represented when any decisions are being made within the football industry. Their main focus is player welfare within the workplace and they are determined to “improve a player’s working environment and overall wellbeing.”
Put simply, FIFPRO has a responsibility to defend the rights of each and every player, both in the women's and men's game, amid the rapid evolution of the sport we all love.
What did the FIFPRO report find?
Although the report found that 85% of unions agree that the relationship between fans and players is a positive one most of the time, several other alarming statistics highlight just how serious an issue fan abuse is.
Firstly, 88% of all unions stated that the threat of violence leads to poor performances from players, while another 83% agreed that it can also contribute to mental health issues.
76% of those same unions also said that workplace safety is a growing concern among footballers, while a further 66% raised concerns that fans were becoming more violent and abusive in recent years.
Perhaps even more worryingly is the fact that this report found that these claims were supported by sources external to these unions altogether. The most important of which is a report published by a Council of Europe committee, which concluded that the number of arrests in top-tier league football “are considerable and can be considered a growing issue”.
Examples from the Premier League
These concerning statistics can also be supported with real-life examples from the English Premier League.
However, even in the Premier League this abuse can and has become physical at times. In January 2023, during a tense North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, a Spurs fan was able to kick Arsenal goalkeeper, Aaron Ramsdale, in the back.
These are not isolated examples, with several other high-profile incidences also occurring during the year.
What can be done?
As well as highlighting the effect fan abuse can have on players, both physically and mentally, this report also suggested steps that can be taken to improve the situation, with Alexander Bielefeld, FIFPRO Director of Global Policy and Strategic Relations, saying: “We cannot continue to allow a culture in which footballers are the victims of unchecked and normalised aggression in their working environment: on the pitch, during team travel, at training grounds, official events, and in their private lives.”
These suggestions include an increase in the use of technology such as security scanners and facial recognition software, a focus on banning abusive fans and educating fans on the effect their abuse can have on players.