PFAI looks to help Airtricity League players supplement income

Union launches programme to improve members’ chances of working outside soccer

Having previously concentrated on helping to find their out of contract members new clubs, the PFAI is launching a new programme aimed at assisting players get work outside the game.

The hope is that the move will enable some of the country’s 200 or so professionals to better make ends meet at a time that the average amount earned by a Premier Division player is just €16,000 per annum (the figure in the first division is only €4,000).

A key part of the plan will be to hold a job fair in September intended to bring likely seasonal employers together with players who are currently paid for only 40 or 42 weeks of the year.

Beyond that, the union is also hoping to encourage members to develop their careers outside football, especially by participating in educational programmes to avoid a situation where large numbers, as PFAI general secretary Stephen McGuinness puts it, “play from 16 until their early 30s when they finish up, look around and think: ‘Right, what am I going to do with myself now?’”

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With the better paid players in the league today earning up to about €1,000 per week, McGuinness readily acknowledges that the average figure of just €400 means many are on far less with some, he suggests, on the €100 minimum figure used to define a professional.

Amateur on expenses

The union would like to see that figure raised by 50 per cent with anyone paid less classed as an amateur on expenses. McGuinness says that while this might seem defeatist, “the reality is that if we were to push for a proper minimum wage within the game then we’d just end up with a league that was packed with ‘amateurs’. We’d love the players to be paid properly and for 52 weeks of the year but 40 weeks and helping them to get some work for the rest of the time is pretty much where we are.”

In an attempt to improve things, the PFAI has brought in a Dublin-based recruitment company, Sapient, to look at ways in which more options might be made available to players. Retailers, those in the leisure sector and large companies with a seasonal element to their business, such as An Post, are obvious targets and the intention is to get as many as possible together later in the year.

Skill-sets

“Between now and then we’ll look to work with the players in various ways, helping them with CVs and stuff like that. Some of them would struggle to see how their skill-sets can be applied to anything other than football but in actual fact those same skills can often be applied very usefully to other jobs and we think there are plenty of employers who will see the benefit of hiring a young, physically fit, disciplined person with a bit of a profile.”

The union sees the initiative as the step towards its aim of helping players develop better careers away from the game.

"We have a bit of catching up to do here. Irupa have done great work with the rugby players as have the GPA but there are differences there, rugby is very rooted in education because of the big part that schools, often private schools, play in the sport while Gaelic players aren't expecting to be paid and so they're always looking outside the game in terms of work.

“Our lads tend to be more like jockeys in that they tend to leave education at 16 and then play until they retire at which point a lot of them realise they’re in a bit of bother.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times