Members of the Republic of Ireland women’s football team held a press conference in Liberty Hall today after the FAI continued to refuse to negotiate with them through the PFAI.
The frustrated players may now boycott next Monday’s friendly international against Slovakia in Tallaght Stadium in protest at the way they are treated as “fifth class citizens” by the FAI.
Thirteen members of the squad along with officials from the players’ union and SIPTU were in Liberty Hall to explain to the media about their anger at long standing issues like lack of remuneration for players, lack of proper kit, gym membership and the key issue which is the FAI’s refusal to allow the PFAI to act for the women’s players in negotiations with the FAI.
“We are fighting for the future of women’s international football, this isn’t just about us,” said team captain, goalkeeper and record Irish capped women’s player Emma Byrne.
The players also said some members of the team have been forced to give up their careers due to the financial pressures of playing for the side, without compensation for loss of wages while representing their country.
“We as players are proud to represent our country at senior level,” the players said in a statement.
“Many of us give up time away from work, family and friends for a chance to represent our country.
“Last year, we gave up over 40 working days to train and prepare for international games. This level of commitment is unsustainable in the current framework.
“We currently receive no loss of earnings, no match fee or bonus for the time given to represent our country.
“Over 60% of the current squad are non-professional, many careers outside the game are on hold and it is becoming financially unrealistic to continue under the current parameters.
“We are elite athletes and compete on the world stage, yet our treatment is far from where it should be.
“With increased investment into the team, and us as players, we feel we have a greater chance to qualify for tournaments on a regular basis and individually reach our full potential as international players.”
“There is a possibility that the game against Slovakia will not go ahead, the last thing the women’s international team want is to not play a game,” said PFAI official Stuart Gilhooly. “We need to recognise that the women’s team are fifth-class citizens, the dirt on the FAI’s shoe.”
Following the press conference the FAI responded with a statement in which they said:
“The ultimatum by the players concerned comes in spite of repeated invitations from the FAI to the Players to discuss clear and tangible financial offers for the payment and compensation of members of the squad.
“Repeated efforts by the Association have been made in a bid to encourage the players to row back from their unprecedented ultimatum.
“On five occasions in recent months the FAI has attempted to bring the Players to the table, only to have the offer rebuked at every turn.
“The Association has agreed to a mediation process, yet the players have decided to progress regardless with a PFAI press conference, instead of meeting through an agreed mediator.
“Along with the core issues of Player representation and financial payments, the FAI has made considerable progress on matters outlined by the Players in their list of ‘Issues to be addressed’ last year. However, all efforts to meet directly and discuss these matters have been refused.
“The Senior Women’s National Team are provided the standards of care expected of a demanding high performance environment, with top level training facilities, hotel accommodation, dietry, fitness, performance analysis and medical and physio care.
“The team has also received significant increases in budget in recent years to attain this high standard, as well as the appointment of a Champions League winning coach.
“Separate to the financial offers that the Association has attempted to make to the players, detailed submissions have been sent to Sport Ireland and Government in January 2016, May 2016 and January 2017, to request funding models that address the personal commitments made by players at senior level.”