Improving facilities, ensuring first-rate medical facilities and developing an insurance scheme for members were agenda items at the first general meeting of the VFL Players’ Association on December 10, 1973.
Forty years on AFL footballers enjoy elite facilities, players have access to world-class medical treatment and are supported by various services including a players’ trust and retirement annuity.
Next Tuesday will mark exactly forty years since that momentous gathering of players and the AFL Players’ Association will host an anniversary dinner to celebrate its foundation members.
Past VFL/AFL Players’ Association presidents, executive members and club delegates will join current player representatives to honor those who laid the foundation for what the Players’ Association is today.
AFL Players’ Association CEO Matt Finnis says December 10, 1973 represents a landmark moment in the history of the game.
“It was a time where the rights of players weren’t recognised, players were expected to yield to the demands of clubs and there was little resistance from the players,” Finnis said.
“It was a time where the rights of players weren’t recognised, players were expected to yield to the demands of clubs and there was little resistance from the players.”
“There had been many stalled attempts to start a representative body for the players, but in 1973 a small group of players had the conviction and the courage to overcome the resistance of the league, the clubs and some players; to form an association which has gone onto advocate for players for forty years.
Current AFL Players’ president Luke Ball says the modern day footballer has a lot to thank these founding members for.
“We are lucky to play in a time where the rights of players are recognised and respected more than ever before. The power of the ‘PA was evident during the last CBA negotiation and it’s thanks to pioneers like Geoff Pryor, Gareth Andrews and Don Scott, that the players’ voice is so prominent today,” Ball said
Writer and sports historian John Harms has been commissioned to publish a historical account of the formation of the then, VFL Players’ Association.
Harms says the formation of the Players’ Association is something that largely occurred outside the public memory, but it is an interesting story with rich history, especially when considering the context it sits within.
“The late 60s and early 70s was a period of tremendous social and political change. It was the emergence of the youth generation, the importance of education, freedom, and civil rights was being realised and the protest movement was underway,” Harms said.
“Some of the mature players started to realize players needed a voice, they had been subjected to a largely autocratic reign from the clubs and the league for literally generations and it was about time they had a greater say.
“But it was also pretty controversial, the players had never really stood up for themselves before and when the press got hold of this they started to write headlines like, “Players to Strike” it was not that well received initially.”
Harms believes the initiative shown by the “founding fathers” can never be underestimated.
It was a time in the history of football where something needed to be done to improve the plight of the players. It’s one thing to recognise this, but it’s another to initiate the process and do something about it.
“Not only the players, but the lawyers, industrial relations experts and others had a huge impact on how strong the Players’ Association is today.”
The AFL Players’ Board will grant four AFL Players’ Association life memberships on the night, joining Geoff Pryor, Don Scott, Gareth Andrews, Peter Allen and Michael Moncrieff as life members.
The AFL Players’ Association 40th Anniversary Dinner will be held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on Tuesday December 10 and will coincide with the annual Directors and Delegates conference.