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Study points to negative effects of Covid on women’s football

Reductions or suspensions of salaries in nearly one in two countries, little or no moral or physical support for certain players, nor dialogue with a good number of national federations… FIFPro (International Federation of Professional Footballers Associations ) has just published a global report devoted to women’s football in the test of Covid. And, at first glance, the report drawn up is hardly encouraging.

It is not however a surprise. During a previous investigation last April, when the health crisis was barely striking, FIFPro was already alerting to the harmful effects of Covid on women’s football, which could face a “Existential threat”.

Read also The momentum of women’s football hampered by the Covid

“Women footballers are continuously neglected”

Six months later, the new survey, which is based on data collected from 62 national female players’ unions, over a period from July to October, issues a new and more worrying warning, exposed through three major lessons. The first indicates that in nearly one in two countries (47% of the panel), the health crisis has had a negative impact on the salaries of female players… when they have one. Remember that out of these 62 countries, only 16% have a professional women’s league, the vast majority (52%) have only an amateur championship.

In the great majority, these are reductions or suspensions of payslips. A quarter of the countries surveyed (24%) also indicate that their players have seen their contracts altered or even terminated for lack of funds. In the same proportion, some players have seen their non-financial support – including meals, accommodation, health insurance and sports subscriptions – reduced or canceled.

Among the other harmful effects caused by the pandemic, the lack of dialogue and support from the players is obvious. Two thirds of those polled ensure that over the last four months, communication between clubs, leagues, federations and players concerning their personal and professional lives, their health and their well-being is weak, even very weak in some cases. In 52% of cases, the national federations did not contact the players of the national teams. Worse: a quarter of countries have not included women’s clubs in their return-to-play protocols.

The study also notes significant weaknesses in the mental and physical support provided to players during the health crisis. Four out of ten countries admit that there is no specific support to help their players get through this period, which is nevertheless very worrying. For footballers, it is better not to get injured: in 66% of countries, they would not receive any help to recover or treat physical problems. It is even more complicated in the event of psychological concerns since more than eight out of ten countries (84%) do not have a mental support system.

“The results of this survey show how women footballers are continually neglected in many parts of the world,” analyzes Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, FIFPro general secretary. […] We need more concerted action, otherwise there will be a real danger to advances in gender equality in parts of the football world. ”

In France, “there were difficulties during the last deconfinement”

Despite everything, the study points to several reasons for satisfaction. Several countries or federations are thus distinguished for having continued to promote their women’s sections during the pandemic. FIFPro points out that the Italian federation is working with its government, for example, to grant professional status to its women’s football league. Ditto in Argentina, where the federation is counting on a five-year plan, validated in September, in order to extend the professionalization of its league.

The report highlights the impact of the players themselves in winning the case. The players of the Dutch championship thus put pressure on the government – with success – so that the competition resumes at the same time as that of their male counterparts. In the United States, which is one of the most advanced nations on the issue, the players’ association (NWSL) had to partner with the league to negotiate contract guarantees for wages, housing and other benefits.

In France, “There were difficulties during the last deconfinement, where a form of precariousness set in for some players who did not have employment contracts. Since the re-containment, we have not yet had any such feedback, notes Fabien Safanjon, vice-president of the UNFP (National Union of Professional Footballers) in particular in charge of issues related to women’s football, contacted by Release. The state is doing what is necessary so that the clubs can set up partial unemployment when the players have been completely arrested. Today, they continue to do their job so there is no problem there. ”

The big concern of the union at the return of competitions mainly concerned “Heterogeneity (clubs) on the health side, in particular concerning PCR tests before matches which were not compulsory according to the health protocol of the federation, Fabien Safanjon note (women’s football is not yet professional, it is the federal protocol that prevails, and in it, the obligation to do tests was not notified). This led to a blur in the clubs: some structures did it, but some amateur D1 clubs, in the grip of certain difficulties, did not necessarily do these tests. At the present time, one can imagine that this is no longer the case. “

Romain Métairie

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