Players’ Associations (PA’s) have existed in Australian sport since the early 1900’s. The general trend of PA’s has been to form, last a few years achieving relatively little for their members in negotiations with management on their employment relationship, and then disband. This has been due to either internal inefficiencies or the inability of the PA’s to gain recognition from employers, the governing authorities of sporting leagues.
Professional cricket in Australia has witnessed the formation of two PA’s, and one failed formation, within its framework. The Professional Cricketers’ Association of Australia (PCA) formed in 1977 during the advent of World Series Cricket (WSC). This association failed to gain recognition from the Australian Cricket Board (A.C.B.) when WSC merged with the A.C.B. in 1979. This failure to gain recognition led to the PCA’s demise in 1982. In 1994 Australian Test and Sheffield Shield (the national domestic league) cricketers failed in an attempt to form a PA. Finally in September 1995 the Australian Cricketers' Association (A.C.A.) was formed. In October 1997, the A.C.A. presented a log of claims to the A.C.B. This log of claims included a variety of player-management issues concerning the employment relationship in professional cricket. The framework for these claims was based on signing an Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA).
Why doesn’t athletics have one of these Player Associations? To put it in simple terms: because one has never been formed. However, in reality this may be too simple as you need to look at the stark individuality of the sport of athletics and it participants to realise that to gain the overwhelming support of the relevant athletes is extremely difficult and to form a body such as an Athletes Association of Australia, you would need to have the support of all the current elite and sub-elite athletes in both membership and vocal support to ensure that the Association was able form and to then ensure that it would not become a (sorry in advance for the cliché) a “Toothless Tiger.”
Are we talking about a Vocal Left wing Unionist Association that will strike like the NBA basketball players to ensure every athlete gets a $1000 each time they compete at an AA meet?
Any Association formed, while needing to be vocal and lobby for the interests of the athletes, would also need to be mindful of the delicate nature of the sport in which we compete. Thus, any form of “industrial action” would need to be seriously discussed and worked through with the AA before being taken; certainly in a number of sports industrial action has resulted in great success for athletes, and ultimately, great outcomes for the sport. The latter is critical, for an Athletes Association would work with the national Body to ensure that athletes are represented at all levels of decision making that could affect their livelihood or welfare.
How would a Player Association have helped with the latest selection issues?
For one it would give aggrieved athletes a voice at all stages of the section criteria, from its formation and ratification, to its implementation. It is the author’s viewpoint that any Athletes Association that may be formed should be able to view selection criteria and recommend changes that benefit members before the criteria is ratified. This not only allows the Athletes Association to be able to put forward the best case for athletes, but it also give the National Body the peace of mind that athletes have effectively signed off on the criteria.
Where to from here?
To form a dedicated Athletes Association, high profile athletes (both present and past) need to come together to promote the idea to the broader community of athletes. Once a consensus has been reached among athletes then the negotiations with the AA board would need to take place to ensure that the current Athlete’s Commission is disbanded and the Association is formed, funded and recognised.
So if you are reading this and believe that you are an athlete that could benefit from an Athletes Association and want to know what you can do?
It is simple. If you are ever approached about forming an Athletes Association do not think about who the person is who is approaching you, or what event group they are in. If you want to make a change and have a voice in the way our sport is run, or are concerned about the welfare of athletes, sign up and you may be part of a real revolution in the way out sport is run.
To have a look at what an Athletes association might look like see below the structure and purpose of the Australian Swimmers Association, who have recently been in the news (ASA is the representative body for elite level swimmers in Australia). Would a similar organisation that represents Australian Athletes be supported by Australia’s athletes?|
Australian Swimmers Association - from australianswimmers.com.au
ASA are the voice for the swimmers and their point of contact for all issues affecting them. We will put communication channels in place to make sure that all swimmers know what is happening in the sport and we negotiate with SAL, the States and other stakeholders to make sure that swimmer receive the best possible conditions.
We continue to investigate ways to grow the sport for the benefit of all.
The ASA structure is based on a ten member Executive Committee with an Honorary Chairman, President and Vice President. The Executive is responsible for overseeing the performance of the ASA and contributing to the development of policy and strategy for its future growth and development. The Executive controls and manages the affairs of the ASA and interprets and implements the Purposes and Rules regarding current and future activities. The Executive ensure that the ASA continues to focus on the issues which are relevant to its members. Staff
The ASA office is managed by a General Manager, Daniel Kowalski.
The ASA has two categories of membership - Members and Associate Members. The Members of the ASA are current SAL National Squad members. These Members have full voting rights.
In order to be eligible to be an Associate Member of the ASA the swimmer must:
a. Have represented Australia in any one of the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, Pan Pacific Championships, FINA World Long Course and Short Course Championships, Open Water World Championships, Paralympic Games or IPC Championships; or
b. Have been a Member of the Australian Swimmers' Association; or
c. Be a scholarship holder at a State Institute of Sport/ State Academy of Sport /Australian Institute of Sport; or
d. Have participated in Swimming Australia's Summer Series event; or
e. Have represented their State at a National or International level competition; or
f. Be a member of Swimming Australia's Youth Team (Flippers squad); or have represented their club at State Level or competition.
PURPOSES OF THE AUSTRALIAN SWIMMERS’ ASSOCIATION INC.
The Australian Swimmers’ Association (“ASA”) was established to provide a single point of contact for Swimming Australia Inc., the relevant state bodies and swimming stakeholders for all matters affecting the interests of past and current Australian swimming team members. The purposes of the ASA are therefore:
1. To provide its members with a representative body dedicated to the promotion and advancement of members interests and the sport of swimming;
2. To promote and protect the interests of all members and to safeguard their rights at all times;
3. To aim for the improvement of economic and other conditions affecting members and swimmers generally and to regulate future advances in this area;
4. To establish and monitor rules and regulations that affects each member’s career;
5. To assist members in securing educational, career and vocational opportunities;
6. To provide a conduit through which members may express personal view on issues directly affecting their personal and sporting well-being;
7. When necessary, effectively represent swimmers in defence of their rights;
8. To coordinate timely communications containing information and advice on all matters concerning members;
9. To perform all other actions consistent with its rules of governance and if appropriate, implement and fulfil the purpose, rights and responsibilities of the Association;
10. To represent swimmers’ interests at ASI Board level where warranted;
11. To provide ASI with an ongoing link to current and past swimmers;
12. To maintain minimum levels of athlete representation on ASI Committees;
13. To gain recognition from appropriate organisations as the representative body for all National Squad and National Youth Squad swimmers;
14. To provide a medium for effective communication with ASI;
15. To work closely with and contribute to ASI’s and ASCTA’s goals in promoting the growth and development of swimming;
16. To work closely with all State bodies, Institute programs (National and State), peak governing bodies (AOC, CGA, ASC) and key swimming authorities and contribute to their applicable programs;
17. To uphold the athletes’ values ethos that will maintain their high status as role models in the Australian Community; and
18. To work with ASI in promoting the entrenchment of swimming as Australia’s number one Olympic Sport.