It’s 2017 and somehow women are still having to fight for their rightful place in football. While American fans are keeping a wary eye on the USWNT and their fight for equal pay, in Ireland the struggle is for basic respect and dignity.
After detailing some of their shameful experiences while representing their country, including being forced to change into their kit in public airport restrooms and having to share tracksuits with youth players, the Republic of Ireland women’s internationals are threatening to go on strike.
A dozen members of the squad held a press conference earlier today detailing their grievances and spelling out their demands. And what they want is both perfectly reasonable and shocking in that they, or anyone, should have to go this far to get it. Yet the players have said that dealing with the Football Association of Ireland has been like yelling at a brick wall, with forward Áine O’Gorman saying the squad had “given up” on trying to work with the FAI directly and amicably.
Stuart Gilhooly, a lawyer for the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland, said that their requests for more financial support and better working conditions were met with threats, with official responses stating that the players’ demands would “endanger their careers at club and international level.” Despite that, Gilhooly made it clear that enough is enough and that the players are ready to walk.
”They are being treated as fifth-class citizens, the dirt on the FAI’s shoe. 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.”
In response to the press conference, the FAI released a statement in which they attempted to shift the blame on to the players.
”We are deeply disappointed that members of the team have threatened to withdraw from playing for their country. 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. 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 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, dietary, 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.”
The FAI also pulled tried to pull the “but you’re role models, think of the little girls who look up to you” trick. Because the last thing we need to teach young girls is how to stand up for themselves. Can’t have that.
Team captain Emma Byrne, a long-time goalkeeper for Arsenal Ladies who recently moved to Brighton & Hove Albion, said she’s fighting not just for her squad but for women’s football.
”We are willing to do whatever it takes at this stage. We are fighting for the future of women’s international football. This isn’t just about us. I know players who have had to stop playing. They made the decision they couldn’t play any more.”