Washington: US authorities on Monday dismissed a bid by American football players at Northwestern University who had been seeking to form a union, overturning an earlier ruling which could have revolutionized college sports.
The National Labor Relations Board said in a statement it had declined to assert jurisdiction in the case, effectively meaning that National Collegiate Athletic Association athletes would continue to be classified as college students instead of employees.
The board however left the door open to challenges at a later date, noting in a statement: "This decision is narrowly focused to apply only to the players in this case and does not preclude reconsideration of this issue in the future."
In March last year, Peter Sung Ohr, director of the Chicago Regional Office of the NLRB, said the time college players devote to their sport and the fact that their scholarships are linked to their football participation make them employees as defined by the National Labor Relations Act.
The NCAA, which governs the popular and lucrative world of US university sports, has long held that "student athletes" are not university employees but students whose participation in sports is part of their education.
As such, they can receive scholarships rewarding their on-field excellence, but not monetary compensation -- something that has provoked bitter dissent as universities rake in millions of dollars in television and merchandising revenue for large-scale sports programs.