BRUSSELS – The union representing professional soccer players said Tuesday its members are mistreated financially by clubs in Eastern Europe, which can lead to the greater risk of match-fixing.
In a study of thousands of players in a dozen nations, FIFPro said clubs from Greece to Russia show a "terrifying lack of respect" for the fundamental rights of professionals, ranging from withholding wages to beatings.
FIFPro, which has threatened to hold up the start of some UEFA Champions League matches unless the situation improves, said by refusing to pay players, clubs were directly pushing them toward match-fixing schemes as a way of financial survival.
FIFPro said FIFA and UEFA failed to heed their calls, noting it would be difficult to effectively combat match-fixing unless the federations make sure players are well-treated and paid on time.
UEFA said it had no comment on the report.
"To organize a strike internationally is of course difficult but — why not should we show the world if they don't change the situation," said FIFPro Secretary General Theo van Seggelen.
Delaying the start of a Champions League game would play havoc with the orchestrated schedules designed for maximum revenue, some FIFPro delegates said.
In the survey of 3,357 players in 12 eastern European nations, representing up to 70 percent of top-division players in some nations, FIFPro found that 41.4 percent did not get paid on time, with 5 percent having to wait six months or more.
"A player who has to wait for his money has a greater chance of being approached to manipulate a match. What's more, he is vulnerable," stated the study, titled the "Black Book Eastern Europe."
When it came to bonuses, often an essential part of players' pay, only 53.4 percent said they received them on time. Almost 12 percent of players in the survey said they had been approached to manipulate a match, and more than half of those who were approached did not have their wages paid on time.
The study indicated 42.9 percent of players do not get their pay on time in Poland, rising to 60.7 percent for bonuses. Almost 10 percent said they had been victim of racism or discrimination. The Euro 2012 co-host Ukraine fared better, with 15.5 percent of players not being paid on time.
FIFPro said fans were often blinded by the wealth of top players and fail to realize 95 percent of players may find it tough to pay mortgages and other expenses.
"As long as Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona and Real Madrid and Juventus are all doing well, unfortunately the glare of publicity does not shine on parts of the world where there are major problems," said FIFPro board member Tony Higgins.
Higgins said he was angered by UEFA and FIFA making the fight against match-fixing a top priority yet not doing enough to get players paid on time.
Almost 12 percent of players were victims of violence, in a third of cases inflicted by their own clubs. The union highlighted recent incidents in Russia where Montenegrin player Nikola Nikezic said he was beaten into terminating his contract with FC Kuban.
"What these players meet is unbelievable," he said, suggesting the results would have been even higher had many players not refused to cooperate because of fear of retribution.
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