Gordon Taylor is potentially facing his most serious challenge in his 37 years as the chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association after the union’s chairman, Ben Purkiss, called for an independent review.
Purkiss, a lower division full-back who currently plays for Walsall, was elected chairman of the PFA last November, saying then that he wanted to ensure that the PFA “continues to evolve to serve the changing needs of all PFA members at every level”.
The 34-year-old is understood to be calling for the independent review to be conducted by Ed Warner, the former chairman of UK Athletics from 2007 to 2017, who is a City financier, considered an expert on sports governance.
Purkiss has been helped with education grants from the PFA during his career, studying for a degree in French and law, and a masters in sports directorship at Manchester Metropolitan university, but believes that the union could benefit from modernisation.
He tweeted on Thursday evening: “I have a duty to act in the best interests of the PFA. Sometimes you have to make a stand for what is right.
“Football is rapidly evolving, players are rapidly evolving and the PFA needs to evolve too. Players past, present and future need a PFA for the modern player.”
In recent years the PFA has become increasingly subjected to criticism for not being effective enough, despite being funded with a share of the Premier League’s TV income, £26.6m last year. In the modern era of generally high pay for footballers, the union has become a welfare organisation for players and former players, helping with a issues including physical ailments, Alzheimer’s disease, mental health challenges, the traumatic effects of historic sexual abuse, addiction and financial difficulties.
The amount of work the PFA carries out and the scale of its funding of welfare has been persistently contrasted with Taylor’s salary, which is the highest by far of any other union leader in Britain. Last year’s PFA accounts showed the 73-year-old was paid £2.29m, almost four times the £530,000 paid in total in all benevolent grants.
Purkiss is said to believe that mental health, particularly, is the major modern challenge for which players need help.
Taylor is reported to have raised a question over whether Purkiss is eligible to be the PFA chairman at all as he is a non-contract player at Walsall. Purkiss argues that non-contract players have always been PFA members, and he intends to stay on.