Professional Footballers' Association

This article is about the English and Welsh football trade union. For the Australian football trade union, see Professional Footballers Australia.
Full name Professional Footballers' Association
Founded 1907
Members 4000
Affiliation TUC, GFTU, FEU, FIFPro
Key people Gordon Taylor, chief executive
Country England and Wales, United Kingdom

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) is the trade union for professional association footballers in England and Wales. The world's oldest professional sport trade union, it has 4,000 members.

The aims of the PFA are to protect, improve and negotiate the conditions, rights and status of all professional players by collective bargaining agreements.[1]

The PFA is affiliated with the Professional Footballers' Association Scotland. The Northern Ireland PFA disbanded in 1995.[2]


The Players' Union

"Outcasts FC" photograph taken before the 1909–10 season.

The PFA was formed on 2 December 1907 as the Association of Football Players' and Trainers' Union (the AFPTU, commonly referred to at the time as the Players' Union). On that date, Charlie Roberts and Billy Meredith (who had been involved in the AFU), both of Manchester United, convened the Players' Union at Manchester’s Imperial Hotel.

This was the second attempt to organise a union of professional footballers in England, after the Association Footballers' Union (the "AFU"), formed in 1898, had been dissolved in 1901. The AFU had failed in its objectives of bringing about a relaxation of the restrictions on the movement of players from one club to another in the Football League and preventing the introduction of a maximum wage of £4 per week for players in the Football League.

Like the AFU before it, the Players' Union intended to challenge the maximum wage and the restriction on transfers, in the form of the "retain and transfer" system.

Threatened strike action in 1909

When the Players' Union made its objectives clear in 1909, the Football Association withdrew its recognition of the Union, which at that time was seeking to join the U.K.'s General Federation of Trade Unions (‘GFTU’).

In response, the Union threatened strike action. The Football Association in turn banned players affiliated with the AFPTU before the start of the 1909–10 season. The ban saw membership of the Union fall. However, players from Manchester United refused to relinquish their membership. League clubs turned to amateur players to replace players that had been banned, but Manchester United were not able to find enough replacements, risking the cancellation of their opening fixture at home to Bradford City. The Manchester United players were called "Outcasts FC".[3]

The deadlock swung in favour of the Union when Tim Coleman of Everton came out in support of the Union. Coleman's intervention resuscitated support for the Union, which regained its strength of numbers. Agreement was reached on official recognition for the Union in exchange for allowing bonus payments to be made to players to supplement the maximum wage. The maximum wage remained for more than another half century.[4]

Continuing battles with the Football League

The 1910s saw the Union backing a challenge by Herbert Kingaby against the retain and transfer system in the courts. Kingaby brought legal proceedings against his former employers, Aston Villa, for preventing him from playing. The Players' Union funded the proceedings. Erroneous strategy by Kingaby's counsel resulted in the suit ending disastrously for the Union.[5] The Union were almost ruined financially and membership fell drastically.

Although membership increased from 300 in 1915 to well over 1000 by 1920 this did not herald a new era of radicalism among the rank-and-file. Widespread unemployment heralded declines in attendance at Football League matches at a time when many clubs had, once again, committed themselves to expensive ground improvement programmes in the expectation that the post-war spectator boom would continue indefinitely. Inevitably, this caused financial difficulties at many clubs. Clubs believed their problems were due to players' excessive wages rather than over-expansion. In the spring of 1922, they persuaded the League authorities to arbitrarily impose a £1 cut to the maximum wage (£9 a week at that time) and force clubs to reduce the wages of players who were on less than the maximum. Legal proceedings backed by the Players' Union this time established that clubs could not unilaterally impose a cut in players' contracted wages.[5]

Between 1946 and 1957 the Chairman of the Union was former Portsmouth captain Jimmy Guthrie. His book 'Soccer Rebel', published in 1976, documents his chairmanship and the struggle of the Union to improve the lot of professional footballers in the years preceding the abolition of the maximum wage.


In 1956, Jimmy Hill became secretary of the Players' Union. He soon changed the union's name to the Professional Footballers' Association (the "PFA"), changing a blue collar image to one in keeping with the new wave of working-class actors and entertainers.[6]

In 1957, Jimmy Hill became chairman of the PFA and campaigned to have the Football League's £20 maximum wage scrapped, which he achieved in January 1961.[7] His Fulham teammate Johnny Haynes became the first £100 player.

The PFA also backed George Eastham in his legal action against the retain and transfer system, providing him with £15,000 to pay for his legal fees. The case was brought against his former club, Newcastle United, in the High Court. In 1963, The Court held that the retain and transfer system was an unreasonable restraint of trade.

Sexism Controversy

In 1997 some Sheffield United players invited their agent, Rachel Anderson, to the annual awards dinner.[8] Anderson was turned away by then PFA Deputy Chief Executive Brendon Batson because she is a woman.[9]

The following year, when West Ham United F.C. player Julian Dicks invited Anderson to attend the dinner,[9] Anderson contacted the PFA to find out what their reaction would be.[8] On receiving a response that she would indeed be banned Anderson decided to go public and take the PFA to court.[9] As a result, the Minister for Sport, Tony Banks, and the Chief Executive of The Football Association, Graham Kelly boycotted the event.[10]

Anderson won in court and the financial cost to the PFA was considerable, Anderson suggests "over £200,000",[8] of which she received £7,500 for "hurt feelings" and an undisclosed amount for "reasonable costs".[9]

In 2013 the PFA instituted awards for the PFA Women's Players' Player of the Year. Kim Little was the recipient in the first year.[11]

PFA Awards

In 1974, the PFA created three awards to be given to players – or people who have contributed a lot to the game – every year.

In 1974 they introduced the first team based award:

In 2001, they created yet another award:

In 2013 and 2014 respectively, the PFA instituted the first female awards:

At this time the PFA Player of the Year award was renamed Men's PFA Player of the Year[13] and the PFA Young Player of the Year was renamed Men's PFA Young Player of the Year.[14]

Present day objectives

In association with other football bodies, the PFA are the managing agents for the "Football Scholarship Programme" and the "Football in the Community Programme".

It is a member of the Institute of Professional Sport and FIFPro – the confederation of international football players' unions – as well as the Trades Union Congress. Its current chief executive is Gordon Taylor, a former player with Blackburn Rovers. Many of the key personnel within the PFA are also ex-professionals, including Deputy Chief Executives John Bramhall and Bobby Barnes.[15]

The PFA also fund various education programmes for ex and current players. The oldest is a link with the University of Salford which has been running since 1991 and which by 2007 had seen over 70 players complete degrees in Physiotherapy. Additionally players complete Sports Science degrees from Manchester Metropolitan University and Professional Sports Writing and Broadcasting degrees at Staffordshire University,[16][17] in addition to other programmes including fitness training, training to become driving instructors and various other initiatives.

The PFA also funds a residential rehabilitation scheme that allows any injured member to attend the Lilleshall Sports Injury Rehabilitation centre for physiotherapy and sports injury treatment free of charge to the player or club. The scheme is designed to complement the medical care available at the players own club. Many club Physios refer their players to Lilleshall with the intention of providing a change of environment. This helps to maintain the motivation & interest of long term injured players. The free sports injury and physiotherapy services are based at the Lilleshall Hall National Sports Centre in Shropshire.[18][19]


2007 brought along the 100th year since the foundation of The Players Union, and to commemorate the centenary year, the PFA launched their "One Goal One Million" campaign. The campaign involved a whole year of celebratory fund-raising activities with the aim of raising £1 million to fully fund a new children's rehabilitation and physiotherapy unit at the University Children’s Hospital, Manchester. Throughout the year the PFA ran a number of high-profile events involving current and former players and managers with the sole purpose of reaching the £1 million target.[20] Events included a pro-celebrity golf event, race days and initiatives involving younger supporters. On the day that the PFA was formed in 1907 – 2 December – there was a match between an England Legends XI – captained by Alan Shearer and managed by Terry Venables – and a World Legends XI – captained by Gianfranco Zola and managed by Jürgen Klinsmann – culminating in a gala dinner in the evening involving a host of top entertainers.

In December of the centenary year, the PFA issued Fans' Favourites; a list of the favourite players at each Football League club. In making the selection, the PFA canvassed the opinions of the supporters of present, and some former, League clubs about their favourite player.[21]

Key personnel

Management committee

As of October 2015, the committee has 17 members.[22]

Past Chairmen

Chief Executives

PFA Executives

See also


  1. The Professional Footballers' Association – About the PFA
  2. "Irish League Footballing Greats, Northern Ireland PFA Player Of The Year".
  3. A forgotten part of Manchester United's history
  4. How players won football's 100 years war,
  5. 1 2 McArdle, 'One Hundred Years of Servitude: Contractual Conflict in English Professional Football before Bosman'
  6. "From Meredith to Powell: 100 years of PFA chairmen". Professional Footballers' Association. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
  7. Harding, John (2009). Behind The Glory 100 Years Of The PFA. pp. 141–145. ISBN 978-1-85983-682-8.
  8. 1 2 3
  9. 1 2 3 4
  11. 1 2
  15. Key Personnel in the PFA
  16. Hats off to our super students
  17. PFA Feature
  18. Lilleshall Sports Injury Rehab Limited - Rehab Program Provider
  19. Turn2Us Listing Regarding PFA Rehabilitation Scheme at Lilleshall
  20. The Professional Footballers' Association – Introduction
  21. Smith, Martin (19 December 2007). "Best footballers: Shearer a hero on two fronts". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  22. "Management Committee". PFA. Retrieved 5 October 2015.

Further reading

External links

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