SportOf unions and their origin

Of unions and their origin

Acolfutpro, the soccer players’ union, issued a statement in solidarity with the strike, making generic requests and requesting not to play games while the demonstrations continue. This convergence of position between athletes and workers’ unions is a good moment to remember how the football unionization process was in England, the cradle of the movement.

The industrial revolution gave rise, among other movements, to the union of workers, highlighting the union of unions that was born in Manchester in 1868. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) would be a significant magnet for professional footballers who at the end of the 19th century began to react due to their precarious working conditions. Even more so when in 1893 the clubs established the system by which a player was their property until they unilaterally decided to do so. To this was added in 1901 the maximum wage of four pounds a week, the equivalent of the average income of a skilled worker.

So, after some failed attempts, the Association of Football Players ‘and Trainers’ Union (AFPTU) was founded in Manchester in 1907, which still represents the interests of footballers in Wales and England today. Among its objectives were the integration with the general labor union, TUC, in addition to demanding the end of the perpetual retention of players by the clubs, compensating injured players, receiving a percentage of transfers and withdrawing the maximum salary of four pounds weekly.

The bosses, nothing less than the Football Association and the Football League, reacted only until 1909, when they learned that the integration process between the AFPTU and the powerful union organization of the General Federation of Trade Unions was progressing. They threaten and effectively expel all footballers affiliated with the AFPTU, while putting together makeshift teams to make up for the lack of manpower. The pressure is such that the vast majority of footballers resign from the AFPTU with the notable exception of Manchester United players, who as a whole refuse to resign from the union.

Without social networks to make the movement visible, the players go to the press and take a photo with a sign called Outcast FC, something like the marginalized or outlawed. There they denounce the lack of payment and their precarious working conditions. The strategy is successful, as the press replicates the news and with the support of some stars from other teams they manage to revoke the suspension to which they were subjected by the FA. The counterpart demanded and voted on by the members of the AFPTU consisted of stopping their adherence to the general union. They managed, yes, to guarantee the right to bonuses, but the other demands were delayed, in the case of the maximum salary, until 1963.

Acolfutpro’s message is ambiguous, as it is not clear to what extent they are willing to give up part of the wealth of their affiliates to promote the dignified life they enact. We will have to wait.

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