The Footballers Players Association of India (FPAI) is taking the initiative to arm its member-footballers with information beyond the game, for example, money management, understanding contract conditions etc.
Current FPAI president Baichung Bhutia explained the steps taken in this direction so that footballers don’t stray down the wrong path when faced with huge sums from club contracts.
The former India captain said, “FPAI organises seminars and workshops where professionals are called to advise players on managing money, other career options, insurance etc. Vikash Dhorasoo (Indian-born footballer in the French league) spoke to players in Kolkata; we held a seminar in Panaji as well. At a time when IPL franchises realise the need to alert players about corruption in sport, football is showing the way.”
Asked about the type of experts FPAI ropes in to address players and specific topics discussed, he said, “Ernst & Young gave a useful lecture on finance and taxation. We have a lawyer in Kolkata for advice on legal aspects; players approach him for points to look into before signing contracts.”
In February 2013, New Zealand lawyer and president of NZPFA Andrew Scott Howman was invited to Pune for a session with India senior probables about safeguarding players’ interest via standard club contracts.
Bhutia points out that it takes time for Indian players to get a hang of it. “Most players I know are sending back money to their families, which is okay with me,” he said. “We didn’t have any system like this and relied on senior teammates to show us how to tackle situations.”
Young footballers from academies like Tata Football Academy, Sesa Football Academy and youth development squads like Pailan Arrows are recruited by I-League clubs with lucrative contracts, especially those identified as special talent, following performances with National junior and senior teams.
“For if these kids are not familiar with negotiating salaries running into lakhs and handling huge sums of money, life can get difficult.”
“FPAI’s acceptance among I-League players means more will have access to expert advice. FPAI started with just 10 players in 2006; nearly 70-80 per cent of those in the I-League first and second division teams are now with us. Bhutia sought AIFF support for the players’ association efforts.
“We look forward to signing a MoU with AIFF,” the ex-India star forward and United Sikkim SC founder mentioned.
Praful Patel, the federation president and one of the invitees at FPAI Indian Football Awards 2013 responded.
“My presence each time at these awards is an example of AIFF encouragement and support. Baichung (Bhutia) has done a tremendous job by forming the FPAI and bringing players under the umbrella of this organisation. We will continue to support them in future.”