Far from the image of owning fast cars and living in mansions, footballers around the world face low wages, delayed payments, bullying and intimidation, according to a survey published on Tuesday.
Sixty percent of the nearly 14,000 players interviewed in 54 countries earned less than $2,000 a month and four in 10 had experienced late payment at some stage in the last two years, the survey conducted by the world players' union FIFPro said.
"Our frustration is that nobody is willing to believe that clubs do not respect contracts and don't pay the players," said FIFPro general secretary Theo van Seggelen. He said the clubs should “feel ashamed that this is today's reality."
"Not every footballer has three cars in different colours. The reality of our football industry is completely different from what most of the fans think," he added.
FIFPro said that he survey, produced in conjunction with the University of Manchester, covered countries in Europe, North and South America and Africa.
Unions from several key countries, including England and Spain which boast two of the world's richest leagues, did not return completed surveys. However, this was offset by the number of developing countries which were also excluded, FIFPro said.
On wages, the survey said that only 40.3 percent earned more than $2,000 per month. Of the rest, 14.5 percent earned between $1,000 and $2.000, 24.6 percent earned between $300 and $1,000 and 20.6 percent earned $300 or less.
Forty-one percent said they had experienced delays in being paid, a figure which rose to 79 percent in Malta, 75 percent in Turkey, 74 percent in Romania, and 96 percent in Gabon, 95 percent in Bolivia and 94 percent in Tunisia.
Van Seggelen said that, although players could go to Fifa's dispute resolution chamber after a three-month delay, they had to wait up to two years for a decision.
"We want Fifa and clubs reduce the non-payment rule to one month; the end goal is to ensure players are always paid on time and in full, the fundamental right of every worker," he said.
A lack of job security was also a problem with the average contract length of 22 months while eight percent of players said they did not have a contract at all.
"The vast majority earn modest wages, have short careers, very little security and face an uncertain future when their career comes to an end," said Van Seggelen.
Just under 10 percent of players said they had suffered physical violence off the field, either from fans, team mates or club management, and 16 percent said they received threats of violence.
Scotland and Italy were among as hot spots for intimidation from fans, the survey said.
Clubs sometimes bullied players when they wanted them to leave and six percent said they had been made to train apart from the rest of the squad.
"The vast majority reported that it was because the club either wanted to end their contract or because they wanted them to transfer to another club," the survey stated.
Van Seggelen said the onus was on national federations to enforce stricter regulations although the ultimate responsibility lay with soccer's governing body Fifa.
"You need to have a licensing system in which it is forbidden not to pay the players on time and if they are not paying the players, there have to be sanctions," said Van Seggelen, adding that such a system existed in most of western Europe.
He said Fifa should suspend federations who did not comply.
"If a federation is not willing to do this in a proper way, they you must have the guts to say that 'your national team will not be allowed to play any more qualifying games,'" he said.