Friday 28 July 2017

Revealed: 'Your proposed actions could damage your club careers' - The letter FAI sent to women's team

Republic of Ireland Women's National Team, team-mates wear
Republic of Ireland Women's National Team, team-mates wear "Respect" T-shirts in solidarity following a women's national team press conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Jack O'Toole

The FAI warned the Ireland women's senior football team that their club careers could be "damaged" if they proceeded to speak out against the Association.

In an extraordinary meeting at Liberty Hall today, 14 players from the women's team, accompanied by members of the Professional Footballers Association, outlined their grievances with the FAI regarding player welfare and treatment on international duty.

In a letter sent last week by the FAI to the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFAI), who are representing the women's team, the Association outlined that it had made efforts to address all the concerns of the women's team and wanted to engage with them through an "independent mediator".

The Association argued that it was not their policy to engage with the PFAI in matters relating to international football.

The letter - which has been seen by Independent.ie - contained seven bullet points with the FAI insisting that they were "listening to their concerns", had "immediate financial proposals" for the women's team and were ready to engage through a mediator.

Following the seven points was a paragraph that read: "We would urge you to consider seriously, both individually and as a group, how your proposed actions could damage your club careers with club penalties for refusing to play international football, your international reputation as players and your responsibilities to many young people who look up to you as role models."

"The FAI have refused to engage meaningful 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," said Stuart Gilhooly of the PFAI.

"This is about the rights of the players, about respect, dignity, equality and fairness.

"When you see this, I think you'll agree this is the very minimum we expect for our women's national team or indeed any international team at all.

"In September 2016, Stephen McGuinness (PFAI General Secretary), wrote to (FAI Operations Director) Peter Sherrard looking for a meeting to discuss the matters. He received no response.

"He then wrote directly to (FAI CEO) John Delaney in December 2016, at which stage a letter was received from John Delaney saying he would bring it to the board of management of the FAI.

"At the next meeting at the end of January of this year, nothing further was heard despite reminders. After a while, the correspondence became a little bit more fraught and become apparent no progress had been made whatsoever.

"In the latter half of last week, a letter was written to the FAI in which it was made clear that negotiations would have to take place or further action would be taken immediately.

"On the back of that, a response was received, signed by (High Performance Director) Ruud Dokter, (Head of Women's Football) Sue Ronan and Peter Sherrard. They made clear on the 31st of March that: 'The Association will not and has never negotiated with the PFAI in regard to our national teams, either men or women, and will only deal with you directly'.

"They then go onto say: 'There is a real danger that the consequences of the actions you have threatened and your refusal to engage directly will set back the development of the game generally and the development of your own careers as players. We will be happy to meet with you when you're in game next Wednesday (tomorrow) in an effort to resolve and put our proposals to you. We would like to meet with you directly and we would suggest three players meet with us to discuss the issues.”

PFAI Player executive Ollie Cahill told Independent.ie that the FAI said in correspondence to the PFAI that the ‘FAI don’t deal with third parties in relation to the national teams’, however, Cahill also highlighted that the men’s team had used BDO strategist Ciaran Medlar to negotiate their bonus package for last summer’s Euro 2016 finals in France.

The women's team are seeking:

  • 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.

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