Since taking up my position as the new Chief Executive of the PFA, I have been hugely impressed with the range and volume of day-to-day activity that the union carries out on behalf of members.
Much of this, understandably, takes place away from the spotlight. But I want to make sure we do a better job of promoting the work we do. It’s important that we build an understanding of the vital role the PFA plays. I want to make sure members understand the ways in which the PFA works for them, and how they can access that support.
You may have seen, for example, that we have been working closely with members at Sheffield Wednesday and Swindon Town to help resolve issues around player payments. This is important work that we know has made a real difference to members and their families.
It is, perhaps, the kind of work that fits a popular understanding of the PFA’s role. Unfortunately, it is still too common that members come to the PFA with issues around the fulfilment of contracts and we play a central role working with members and their clubs to find a solution.
However, the PFA works on a wide range of issues with members at all levels of the game - from the Premier League to the EFL and the WSL. The challenges a player will face in their career are varied. I want to make sure that members at all levels understand that the PFA provides them with a powerful, independent and unifying voice, whatever level they are playing at.
When I began my role as Chief Executive, I said that leadership was about listening.
With that in mind, and as a priority, I’ve travelled across the country to meet with members and staff at Premier League clubs as they begin to ramp up preparations for the new season.
In the past week I have been able to meet with players and senior staff at clubs including Leeds, Newcastle, Burnley and Watford. It’s been a valuable opportunity to build new relationships and to reconnect with many of those who I have worked closely with in my previous roles as a player and executive.
I’d like to thank all of those – from chief executives, head coaches, club captains, PFA delegates and players – for the warm welcome I have been given and for the time you have taken to meet with me.
It’s been important to be able to hear about some of the issues where members want the PFA to provide leadership, whether that’s the impact of online abuse that has been so shamefully targeted at members, racial discrimination or the potential impact of fixture congestion on player wellbeing.
I’ve also welcomed the opportunity to meet with the many international players who are PFA members playing with English clubs – an experience I can relate to from my own playing career. As I have said, members face a range of personal and practical challenges in their career, many of which can be exacerbated by the experience of moving to and living in a new country. The PFA is your union too, and we are here to help you.
I’m looking forward to getting out to more training grounds before the season starts. This week I’ll be visiting players and staff at Aston Villa, Leicester City, Wolves and Brentford, before returning to my old team Brighton & Hove Albion.
My message to members will be clear – whatever the issue, and whatever level you play at, we achieve more when we speak with a united voice than when we stand as individuals.