Since I last wrote to update you, I have been busy meeting players and staff up and down the country as I continue club visits.
On Monday, I attended a meeting of Premier League club captains where I was able to hear about some of the issues being raised by players ahead of the new season.
The meeting covered a diverse range of topics and, for me, it was really impressive to see the extent to which players are keen to make their voice heard and to influence what happens both on and off the field. Players like Harry Maguire, Troy Deeney and Kasper Schmeichel were excellent spokespeople for their colleagues and represent a generation of players who clearly take a broader interest in the running of the game.
The PFA obviously has a significant role to play with this. It is our role to ensure that the voice of the players is as strong and united as it can be across the game so that it can be used most effectively.
It is encouraging to report that many of the issues raised were around subjects where the PFA is already making a difference.
Some of the suggestions made by players really stood out. Players have asked why – with their experience and understanding of the game – players and former professionals are not a larger part of the decision making processes around the implementation of VAR. Surely this is an idea worth exploring if it helps officials and gives players greater confidence in the VAR process?
We also discussed the continued taking of the knee before kick offs this season, a player-led initiative that the PFA fully support, along with the latest heading guidance provided to teams this season and agreed by the PFA, FA, Premier League, EFL and the LMA.
I have also spoken to players about the impact of social media abuse, which made the release of the PFA’s report on the issue last week all the more timely. If you haven’t read the report, which the PFA produced with data science company Signify Group, I would encourage you to take a look.
The study uncovered some alarming statistics about the extent of the abuse being targeted at players but, as I told media at the launch of the report on Wednesday, this is an issue that now needs to move from analysis to action. That is why the PFA have directly reported instances of abuse to the police for further action to be taken and, where abusers are identifiable, have informed relevant clubs so that they can take action. Now it is the job of the social media companies to take responsibility – if we can do it, so can they.
My meetings with the media on Wednesday were a chance to discuss a wide range of issues on the PFA’s agenda. As I said to journalists, it is my job to make sure that we are communicating the full extent of the work everyone at the PFA does on behalf of players so that members – and the wider football community – understand the importance of our role. We have good stories to tell, and I want to make sure we tell them. I spoke to Nick Robinson on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Thursday, which you can listen to here.
In what was a busy week, I was also able to visit Chelsea, West Ham, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham to meet with players and staff. Again, I appreciated the welcome I received and enjoyed the chance to talk to several senior players about post-career opportunities and initiatives around coaching and education. It’s another area where the PFA already plays a big role and one where I’m keen to ensure members understand the support we can provide.
Finally, with the EFL season kicking off on Saturday, I headed to Salford City v Leyton Orient in League Two to see newly elected PFA Players’ Board member Omar Beckles open the scoring for Orient. Hopefully, this is a good sign, and I’ll be able to act as a good luck charm for PFA reps across the country this season!
I look forward to speaking to you all soon.