Saturday 24 February 2018

Byrne: Women's team's bitter row with FAI is causing us sleepless nights

 

Republic of Ireland Women's National Team captain Emma Byrne speaks alongside, seated from left, Stephanie Roche, Aine O'Gorman, Karen Duggan, and other team-mates during a women's national team press conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland Women's National Team captain Emma Byrne speaks alongside, seated from left, Stephanie Roche, Aine O'Gorman, Karen Duggan, and other team-mates during a women's national team press conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Aidan Fitzmaurice

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Ireland's senior women's team say they have been having sleepless nights over the increasingly bitter row with the FAI.

And the Irish players are likely to boycott today's proposed training session ahead of Monday's international against Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium, with the possibility that the game will now not go ahead.

"It's all been very stressful. It might even be affecting some of the girls in their club football as this is hanging over us for a while," team captain Emma Byrne told the Irish Independent. "I want to have been able to sleep for the last two weeks and not worry about this, it's stressful, completely stressful."

Two years of unhappiness among the senior Ireland squad has burst out into the open in the last 24 hours, with a remarkable press conference held by the players at SIPTU headquarters in Dublin's Liberty Hall yesterday morning, where 14 players put on a united front and revealed their long-festering grievances with the FAI.

Read more: 'Refusing to play for Ireland will not help the players' reputations' - FAI high performance director Ruud Dokter

The players stated that they first contacted the players' union, the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFAI), over their concerns two years ago, and the key issue now is the FAI's refusal to accept a role for the PFAI in any talks.

Stories of Irish players having to change into and out of team tracksuits in public toilets, as the tracksuits had to be handed back after international trips, caused upset which was clear on the faces of the players, and those reports have made headlines around the world.

Players with the senior international side are unhappy with many aspects of their preparation and training but also the lack of financial compensation for time spent on international duty.

Senior player Karen Duggan estimated that players miss out on €40,000 in lost wages over the course of an international career. "We know it's a big honour to play for your country but you shouldn't have to make a choice," said the Kilkenny native.

Just hours after the players spoke out, the FAI issued a statement in response, saying the association was "deeply disappointed that members of the team have threatened to withdraw from playing for their country".

That statement rubbed salt into already-sore wounds with a squad source claiming that the FAI statement was "insulting".

The players were already angered by at email which was sent to them by the FAI last Sunday, which said: "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 the many young people who look up to you as role models."

Ruud Dokter, the FAI's director of high performance, conducted a round of radio interviews to back the association's position. He claimed that many of the players' complaints had been dealt with but the FAI were sticking to their refusal to accept players' union, the PFAI, as representatives of the women's international side.

Read more: ‘This is the Roy Keane moment for the women’s team’ -  PFAI representative compares women’s situation to Saipan

"The association has never dealt with the PFAI with regards to international football. That's a decision made by the board."

However, the FAI admitted in January 2016 that a deal on player bonuses for Euro 2016 was done via an intermediary.

Afterwards, the then captain Robbie Keane, in a statement issued by the FAI, said: "We are pleased to have finalised this agreement quickly and cordially with the FAI through our representative, Ciaran Medlar".

For some, this is similar to a row in 2015 when the Australian women's team (the Matildas) effectively went on strike over their poor treatment compared to the men's team. The Matildas won.

Irish Independent

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