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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 22 May, 2019
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'They are the dirt off the FAI's shoe': Women's national team demand improved treatment

14 members of the squad were present at a press conference this morning as they outlined the conditions they play under.

Players at this morning's press conference.
Players at this morning's press conference.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

THE IRELAND WOMEN’S national team has outlined the extraordinarily low-quality working conditions they are expected to perform under in a last-ditch attempt to receive better treatment from the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

In a remarkable press conference attended by 14 members of the squad at Dublin’s Liberty Hall this morning, the players described the action as a ‘last resort’ and said they would refuse to play in next Monday’s friendly against Slovakia if a resolution was not found this week.

The core issues revolve around financial payments and representation of the players, with the FAI withdrawing the previous €30 per diem payment during international camps and failing to cover the earnings lost by members of the squad who are part-time.

One of the most astonishing revelations to come from this morning’s press conference was that players are forced to change in and out of team kit in airport toilets before and after away trips as the tracksuits are also used by underage teams.

Ireland captain Emma Byrne described it ‘as humiliating’.

Today’s event comes two years after the players first aired their concerns with the FAI, and despite the association being presented with a booklet outlining the exact issues last April, no meaningful action has been taken.

The team has sought the help of the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFAI) to engage in negotiations with the FAI, but the association have stated that they will not deal with the players’ body and will only enter discussions with the players themselves via the help of an independent mediator.

The PFAI said the women’s international team is being treated as ‘a fifth class citizen.’

“It’s very important to understand that is something that hasn’t been taken lightly,” PFAI solicitor, Stuart Gilhooly, said.

A view of the press conference There was a large media turnout for today's event. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“The FAI have refused to engage meaningfully in any way with the women’s national team. This process of attempted negotiation has been going on for nearly two years, either directly with the players themselves and then the PFAI.

“It’s about the rights of the players, about respect, dignity, equality, fairness.

“The women’s national team is not being treated as a second class citizen, but a fifth class citizen. They are the dirt off the FAI’s shoe. That’s how they see them.”

In a booklet produced by the PFAI and presented to the FAI, the primary concerns of the players are clearly outlined:

  • Access to 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.

“We’re here because we want to be able to field the best national team possible and be able to compete at the highest level possible,” Byrne said.

“There have been issues, not just for the last few years, but for a very long time now. We’re here to try and get those issues resolved. We’ve been talking to the FAI and nothing has been resolved.

Ireland team The women's national team. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“We’re here as the last step to take these extraordinary measures because we need it resolved and we’re willing to do whatever it takes to get it resolved this week.”

In a statement released shortly after the conclusion of the press conference, the FAI said they were ‘deeply disappointed that members of the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team have threatened to withdraw from playing for their country in the upcoming match versus Slovakia on 10 April.’

The statement added:

“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.”

Ireland are due to face Slovakia next Monday in an international friendly at Tallaght Stadium, a game which will be manager Colin Bell’s first home fixture in charge.

“All options are on the table at the moment,” Gilhooly added. “It’s a situation where there’s certainly a possibility where that game will not go ahead but we’re hopeful that the FAI will react well to this. That they’ll react sensibly but that is the absolute last resort [cancelling the game].

“The last thing the women’s national team wants to do is to not play a football match. That’s what they’re here for, that’s what they do. It’s a very simple operation for the FAI to ensure that happens. We’ve set out extremely reasonable and fair conditions in order to get to that point.

“I think everyone would agree that what we’ve set out is entirely fair. If they want to avoid that situation just pick up the phone.”

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‘Hopefully Seamus looks at what people like me did and realises there’s a way back from this’

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Ryan Bailey

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