Women's National Team demand improvements from FAI

The WNT say they have had to change into their team tracksuits in public toilets at airports

Women's National Team demand improvements from FAI

©INPHO/Donall Farmer

The FAI is in a crisis situation with the Women's National Football team (WNT) regarding demands from the team that have allegedly not been met.

14 members of the senior WNT, along with mebers of the player's Union, the PFAI, attended a press conference today, to highlight the conditions they say they are playing under, and outlined their demands for the FAI.

Some of the current conditions they allege they are playing under include:

1) Changing into their Ireland tracksuits in public toilets at airports before travelling to away games, and giving them back to the FAI so that the tracksuits can be recycled to other squads.

2) Taking unpaid leave in order to play for the National team. 

Some of the demands of the team include, a €300 match fee, access to a nutritionist, and gym membership for the squad. They also want their team clothing distributed prior to meeting at the airport.

The players have not confirmed that they will consider strike action in relation to this issue, but have said they are 'willing to do whatever it takes to get it resolved this week,' ahead of an a friendly game against Slovakia next Monday April 10th.

The women's team have been lobbying for change for some two years with the FAI, with no effective resolution being implemented.

Image: Members of the Irish WNT at today's Press Conference.

As a result, they have requested for the Players Football Association of Ireland (PFAI), to represent them in negotiations. The FAI are refusing to recognise the PFAI as the official representation of the squad, and have said they will only deal directly with the players.

Team captain Emma Byrne, along with Stephanie Roche, Áine O'Gorman and Karen Duggan addressed the conference.

Byrne said: "We've been talking to the FAI for a long time now, and nothing has been resolved and that's why we're bringing the PFAI on board.

"We feel as footballers that we have the right to representation. We’re not being allowed this and we don't understand why because all of our negotiations previously has not resulted in anything.

"We're here as the last step and we're here 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.

"We're very united about this. It's in the hands of the FAI and the PFAI representatives. We don't want to have to deal with this."

Duggan outlined how a lack of reimbursement, impacts the income levels of the amateur players:

"From an amateur standpoint, there's certain challenges that are unique to us as. Between September 2015 and 2016, we would have taken over and above 40 days (off work). Some girls are taking this as unpaid leave, some are taking as holiday leave. If you look at some of the figures associated with that, they're huge.

"It's maybe two months wages out of your 12 months are sacrificed and that's been going on. We've received no reimbursements for six years now. Your five grand or seven grand that you're missing out on, quickly becomes 40 plus grand. To some people, that might not seem huge, but to us, it's so significant and would help us so much.

Image: A document containing all the demands that the team want to see addressed.

"We understand it's a huge honour to play for your country, but there comes a time when you have to think about yourself and you don’t want to be forced to make a choice."

Numerous correspondences have been shared between the players and the FAI, requesting for the PFAI to represent them in negotiations. The PFAI have also tried to seek a meeting with the FAI, to discuss the issues raised by the women's team.

Speaking at the press conference, PFAI solicitor Stuart Gilhooly said: "There is no reason presented as to why the players are being asked to do this on their own.

"The only conclusion you can reach is that the FAI prefer to talk to players directly because they reckon that whatever they say will be unacceptable to us as advisers of the national team.

"Many of the players have lost money playing for the national team, none of them get paid anything and some of the conditions are quite extraordinary."

Gilhooly added that the women's team are treated differently compared to the Irish men's squad.

"The men’s international team clearly operate in a different sphere. Their match fees are in the thousands.

"All the women have asked for is a €300 match fee, a very small amount of money. It is simply to make up for what they might have lost in terms of career development, earnings and in terms of the time they gave to such an important part of all of our sport.

"I think we need to recognise that the Women’s International team is being treated, not as a second class citizens, as a fifth class citizen. They are the dirt off the FAI’s shoe, that’s how they see them."