Red flag flying for Brother Cantona

JAMES CUSICK

For Eric Cantona, red flag and card votes usually refer to Old Trafford fans or a booking or a sending-off. However, this week, like Britain's other 2,000 professional footballers, Mr Cantona may be keeping an eye on the results at Brighton.

This week's conference will be the first full union gathering the Professional Footballers' Association has attended since it rejoined the TUC this year after leaving in the early 1970s.

The idea that top players earning tens of thousands of pounds each week require the protection of their union may at first seem at odds with reality. Brother Cantona and Brother Ferdinand thrashing out their overtime rate over beer and sandwiches with their club shop steward is not a picture easily conjured up.

However, not all the members of the PFA are as financially secure as the leading Premiership players. Many in the lower divisions are paid average wages and seek the protection and strength in numbers supplied by PFA affiliation.

The secretary of the PFA, Gordon Taylor, will see the PFA present two motions to the conference. One seeks the TUC's backing in "kicking" racism out of British football; and the other seeks a discussion on the adverse affect the National Lottery is having on the football pools companies' own revenue and hence the money the clubs receive from their share of falling pools revenue.

Mr Taylor says the PFA has parallels with other groups: "In areas like accident insurance, health, employment law, and risk protection, we are not unsimilar to other professional bodies like the actors' union Equity or the Musicians' Union."

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