Thursday 19 October 2017

Sharing tracksuits and changing in toilets - Irish women's team hit out at treatment as FAI respond with statement

Stephanie Roche, centre, of the Republic of Ireland Women's National Team speaks alongside team-mates, seated from left, captain Emma Byrne, Aine O'Gorman, and Ethel Buckley, left, SIPTU Services Division, during a women's national team press conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Stephanie Roche, centre, of the Republic of Ireland Women's National Team speaks alongside team-mates, seated from left, captain Emma Byrne, Aine O'Gorman, and Ethel Buckley, left, SIPTU Services Division, during a women's national team press conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Ireland captain Emma Byrne, left, leads her team in singing the national anthem ahead of the Women's 2017 European Championship Qualifier between Republic of Ireland and Montenegro in Tallaght Stadium
Aidan Fitzmaurice

Aidan Fitzmaurice

The Ireland women's team have been treated like "fifth class citizens" by the FAI and have been forced to the point where an international at home to Slovakia next Monday is in danger of not going ahead, it was claimed today.

A long-burning resentment by members of the senior women's international side came to a head today when a group of 13 players, supported by players' union, the PFAI, spoke to the media in Dublin.

Players outlined their grievances, such as the lack of remuneration for players on international duty, the lack of proper kit, gym membership and other matters which have come to a head and left the danger of strike action.

A key issue is the FAI's refusal to allow the PFAI, which also acts for League of Ireland players and represents the senior men's international team, to act for the women's players in any negotiations with the FAI.

Players spoke of the humiliation of having to go into a public toilet in airports to change into, and then out of, tracksuits for international as the tracksuits had to be handed back for use by other teams.

"We are looking for the basics. In the past we have been getting changed in public toilets in the way to matches, this just highlights the lack of respect, it's not a lot we are looking for, just the basics," said Aine O'Gorman, one of the key players in the side.

"We are fighting for the future of women's international football, this isn't just about us," said team captain Emma Byrne today.

It was claimed that players for the women's senior team have been forced to give up their career due to the financial pressures of playing for the side, without compensation for loss of wages while on duty.

"I know players who have had to stop playing, they made the decision they couldn't play any more and the problem we have is that the countries around us are progressing," said Emma Byrne.

O'Gorman spoke of how recent correspondence from the FAI, which stated that the players going public and taking their stance, would "endanger their careers at club and international level" was seen as a threat from within the squad.

The players remain committed to their demand that the PFAI be allowed represent them in talks with the FAI but that if no progress was made, the match against Slovakia was in danger.

"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," said PFAI official Stuart Gilhooly.

4 April 2017; Republic of Ireland Women's National Team captain Emma Byrne, centre, with team-mates, from left, Karen Duggan, Aine O'Gorman, Claire Shine, Niamh Fahey, Jetta Berril, Ruesha Littlejohn, Niamh Reid-Burke, Katie McCabe, Julianne Russell, Megan Campbell, Diane Caldwell, Stephanie Roche, and Louise Quinn following a women's national team press conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
4 April 2017; Republic of Ireland Women's National Team captain Emma Byrne, centre, with team-mates, from left, Karen Duggan, Aine O'Gorman, Claire Shine, Niamh Fahey, Jetta Berril, Ruesha Littlejohn, Niamh Reid-Burke, Katie McCabe, Julianne Russell, Megan Campbell, Diane Caldwell, Stephanie Roche, and Louise Quinn following a women's national team press conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
4 April 2017; PFAI Solicitor Stuart Gilhooly, second from left, speaks alongside Ollie Cahill, left, of PFAI, Ethel Buckley, third from left, SIPTU Services Division and 14 Republic of Ireland Women's National Team players during a women's national team press conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
4 April 2017; Ollie Cahill of PFAI holds up a pamphlet containing demands and issues hoping to be resolved from the Republic of Ireland Women's National Team during a women's national team press conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

The FAI have since released a statement responding to the press conference:

"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.

"The Association has agreed to a mediation process, yet the players have decided to progress regardless with a PFAI press conference, instead of meeting through an agreed mediator.

"Along with the core issues of Player representation and financial payments, the FAI has made considerable progress on matters outlined by the Players in their list of ‘Issues to be addressed’ last year. However, all efforts to meet directly and discuss these matters have been refused.

"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, dietry, 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.

"Separate to the financial offers that the Association has attempted to make to the players, detailed submissions have been sent to Sport Ireland and Government in January 2016, May 2016 and January 2017, to request funding models that address the personal commitments made by players at senior level."

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