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Dublin: 12 °C Friday 17 August, 2018
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Women's national team boycott training as they prepare for meeting with mediator over FAI row

“The players have not taken this decision lightly.”

The players at yesterday's press conference.
The players at yesterday's press conference.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

THE IRELAND WOMEN’S national team will not report for international duty this afternoon in a further act of protest against the Football Association of Ireland’s (FAI) treatment of the players.

The squad have decided not to attend today’s training camp ahead of Monday’s friendly against Slovakia, with the players and their Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFAI) and Siptu representatives set to meet a mediator this evening as the row over payment and compensation continues.

In a statement released this afternoon, Siptu Services Division Organiser, Ethel Buckley, said it was their understanding “that representatives of the FAI will also be meeting with the mediator” but it appears no talks will take place between the players, the association and the PFAI.

It comes after 14 members of the senior squad aired their grievances over their playing and training conditions during an extraordinary press conference at Liberty Hall yesterday.

“At a team meeting the members of the Women’s National Team decided that they are unfortunately unable to attend today’s training camp,” PFAI Player Executive, Ollie Cahill, said.

“The players have not taken this decision lightly. The players wish to make clear that they simply want the FAI to respect their right to choose their own representatives and have all the outstanding issues which are affecting their ability to achieve their maximum potential for their country resolved in a swift, amicable and professional manner.”

The FAI has refused to engage with the PFAI, the players’ body which has been appointed as the team’s representative, with the association insisting that it is a board of management decision and thus policy not to do so.

Ollie Cahill PFAI player executive Ollie Cahill. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The governing body says that “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,” but the stumbling block remains their unwillingness to engage with the PFAI.

The FAI has remained steadfast in its stance that it will only deal with the players directly via an independent mediator and not recognise the PFAI as their representative, despite the squad clearly stating that that is the way they wish to proceed.

“Members of the team and their PFA Ireland and SIPTU representatives will attend a meeting with a mediator to discuss the issues in this dispute, this evening at 6.00 p.m,” Buckley said in the statement.

“It is our understanding that representatives of the FAI will also be meeting with the mediator.

“The players and their representatives are encouraged by a communication sent to team members today by the FAI inviting them to attend the mediation process along with their representatives.”

After a huge swell of support for the players following Tuesday’s shocking revelations, Cahill added: “The players would also like to thank the public and the global football community for the overwhelming level of support they have received in the past 24 hours.

“Messages of support have come in to the team from around the world and these have been greatly appreciated by the players.”

With the assistance of the PFAI, the players presented a booklet to the FAI last April which clearly outlined the issues they want addressed, but no meaningful action has been taken by the governing body.

The players’ frustrations all came to a head in Dublin yesterday and this afternoon’s update is another move in a bid to gain equality, respect and the fairness they deserve.

The primary concerns of the players are as follows:

  • Access to a nutritionist, and individual strength and conditioning programmes.
  • Gym membership for squad.
  • Hotel accommodation to include at the very least working and reliable WiFi.
  • Apparel for travelling to be provided to the squad prior to meeting up at airport.
  • More home-based training sessions.
  • All non-professional players to receive loss of earnings documented from their employers.
  • Goalkeeper coach to remain for campaign, not change from game to game.
  • Match fee for all international fixtures of €300.
  • Bonus for competitive fixtures of €150 per win and €75 per draw.
  • Qualification bonus to be agreed with team captain and player representatives at least four weeks prior to start of qualification campaign.

The news comes after former Ireland women’s manager Noel King labelled comments by the PFAI solicitor Stuart Gilhooly as ‘outrageous and completely wrong.’

“It’s not what [the players] had to say, it’s what the solicitor had to say from the PFAI –’Dirt on the shoe, fifth class citizens,’” King, the current Ireland U21 manager, told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

“That is absolutely outrageous and completely wrong. The money the women are given is on par with the boys if you go, U14, U15, U17, U19, seniors. The senior women would arguably have more input internationally because they have eight friendlies this year and have just come home from Cyprus after four games.

Emma Byrne Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“So for that man to say that, it really throws it in my face and all the people who work with us to try and get the women’s game up to the level it’s at today.”

Speaking to Sean O’Rourke shortly after, Gilhooly hit back at King’s criticism:  ”I don’t know where he’s coming from with this. I never mentioned Noel King, this has nothing to do with Noel King.

“I have a lot of respect for what he has achieved over the years but nobody mentioned Noel. I think Noel is probably being disproportionately upset at what has been said. This isn’t about him. This is about the basic human rights that these women are unhappy with and I can tell you, they heard what he said this morning and they are very disappointed.”

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