Saturday 23 September 2017

'The men's team would treat the fees we are looking for as pocket money'

Ireland footballer Julie-Ann Russell. Photo: Arthur Carron
Ireland footballer Julie-Ann Russell. Photo: Arthur Carron

Ireland international Julie-Ann Russell contrasts the way she is treated by her employer and the FAI when it comes to football.

The 26-year-old from Moycullen, Co Galway, said her managers at a big multinational in Dublin went out of their way when it came to giving her time off for training and matches.

But when asked about her relationship with the FAI, she said the worst part is the lack of respect.

"There's no comparison between them," she said.

"The worst part of it all is the respect that they're not showing. Like the simple task of letting the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFAI) represent us. I don't see why such a big deal has been made of us asking for representation. We're not skilled negotiators.

"But they have dealt with male footballers through the PFAI and the majority of international teams are represented by players' associations."

She denied that any financial proposals had been tabled by the association to resolve the situation.

Russell said she was only told two weeks before the Cyprus Cup in March that she was in the squad, which was too short notice to get off work.

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"Usually you would know prior to this, but we had just got a new manager so the communication was very poor," she said. "It was too late. I was away with work in different countries, so I couldn't commit. It was sad, because once I have notice I can usually go."

She said she is able to work in her business of online advertising while away at matches during her free time, although other women in professions like teaching find it far more difficult to get time off.

But even her arrangement has not always worked out. "I need strong wi-fi because of work - that wasn't checked out before we arrived in some hotels in Europe.

"I've been working and playing for the last three years and they know I work when I go away. It's kind of a necessity. I couldn't join conference calls and meetings because there was no signal."

She remembers having to change into Ireland tracksuits on numerous occasions in airports - the same tracksuits were used by underage teams.

"We've never commented on it that much, but then we sat back and thought, 'it's really bad'. No one would expect that. You wouldn't see the likes of the men's team being asked to change in the public toilet."

She has been playing for the Ireland team since she was 18 but was mad about football since she could walk.

"My brother John plays for Sligo Rovers," she said. "I just copied everything he did. I was his little brother, per se."

She added: "It was a last resort to call the press conference. We just want it to be resolved more quickly.

"I think the men's team are on a different sphere to all the other teams. I don't think we are treated in any way close to them.

"The fees we are looking for are minuscule in comparison to what the men are on. It would be pocket money for them."

Irish Independent

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