Monday 22 January 2018

'This is the Roy Keane moment for the Ireland international women's team'

Stephanie Roche
Stephanie Roche
Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team captain Emma Byrne (centre) speaks alongside Aine O’Gorman (left), Karen Duggan (right) and other team-mates during a news conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Photo: Cody Glenn

Chai Brady

The Football Association of Ireland has been accused of making "veiled threats" to Ireland's international women's team in a dispute over pay and conditions.

The FAI warned members of the team that their club careers could be "damaged" if they speak out.

Players are now threatening to pull out of next week's match with Slovakia, claiming they are being treated as "the dirt off the FAI's shoe".

The team are asking for what they say are "borderline basics", which include their own tracksuits, a €300 fee for international matches and gym membership.

But the FAI is said to have "threatened" players, saying their careers and reputations would be damaged.

As the row intensified, the football association defended its position, saying it tried to engage with the team "in good faith".

Stuart Gilhooly, solicitor for the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland, outlined a long list of grievances at a press conference at Liberty Hall Theatre.

"The women's international team is not being treated as a second-class citizen, but a fifth-class citizen. They are the dirt off the FAI's shoe. That's how they see them," he said.

"We regard this as the Roy Keane moment for the international women's team. Roy Keane, as we all know, famously made a stance 15 years ago and things changed after that.

"There's a difference here. Everyone is here. Every one of them is here; this isn't one person saying this isn't good enough, this isn't a Roy Keane moment, this a whole team moment."

Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team captain Emma Byrne (centre) speaks alongside Aine O’Gorman (left), Karen Duggan (right) and other team-mates during a news conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Photo: Cody Glenn
Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team captain Emma Byrne (centre) speaks alongside Aine O’Gorman (left), Karen Duggan (right) and other team-mates during a news conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Photo: Cody Glenn

The players asked the PFAI, which is a branch of trade union Siptu, to represent them in talks. The union last night said that members offered their "full support" for the stance taken.

Mr Gilhooly read out an extract of one of the FAI's messages, which told players: "We will 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 responsibility to the many young people who look up to you as role models.

"Your current stance into making this an issue about representation from the PFAI and a threat to make this a public matter will not yield any positive results, but will in all likelihood damage women's football and it's future development."

In the same email it told the team to think of the Slovakian squad who had booked hotels.

"The players were understandably taken aback if you can imagine by the tone of that letter and what I can only describe as veiled threats," said Mr Gilhooly. Captain Emma Byrne said the team were taking these "extraordinary measures" because they need the issues resolved, and the team will do "whatever it takes".

Teammate Aine O'Gorman added: "I just think we've probably had a few tough phone calls to take over the last few days with these threats, but I think as a group it's something that we stand so strong about."

She added that "to secure that future for women's football we're willing to stand tall and listen to that, but we hope it can be resolved".

A source at the FAI said that there is a budget of €360,000 for the women's national senior team for this year, up €60,000 on last year. Much of this is spent on travel which is a "very expensive operation". The FAI released a statement saying it tried to engage with the team "in good faith" on October 16, March 22, March 28, March 31 and April 2.

"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," the statement said.

"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," it added.

Irish Independent

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