Today has been a remarkable day in Irish football: the Irish Women's National Team have held a press conference at Liberty Hall in Dublin to highlight their appalling treatment by the Football Association of Ireland. Fourteen members of the squad, along with representatives from the PFAI and SIPTU refused to rule out the possibility of strike action ahead of this weekend's match against Slovakia. The squad handed out a document containing a list of demands they wish to be met by the FAI. These include:
- Access to nutritionist, and individual strength and conditioning programmes
- Gym membership from squad
- Hotel accommodation to include at the very least working and reliable wi-fi
- Apparel for travelling to be provided to the squad prior to meeting-up at the 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 €300
- Bonus for competitive fixtures €150 win, €75 draw
- Qualification bonus to be agreed with team captain and player representatives at least four weeks prior to start of qualification campaign.
The players laid bare the absurd working conditions they currently work under. Captain Emma Byrne revealed that players often lose money by playing for their country, and are forced to share their FAI-branded tracksuits with underage squads along with being forced to change in airport toilets ahead of games.
The refusal of the FAI to engage with the PFAI on behalf of the players was one of the biggest issues raised by the squad, with a two-year long consultation process with the FAI yielding no change.
The FAI responded to the press conference by issuing a statement in which they said they were "deeply disappointed" by the players' threat of strike action, along with outlining five dates on which the FAI made efforts to engage with the squad.
During the press conference, Stuart Gilhooly of the PFAI alleged that the FAI threatened that further demands would "damage players careers".
Stuart Gilhooly of the PFAI said the FAI responded to letters by alleging that furthering demands would "damage players careers." #IRLWNT
— Ann-Marie Keegan (@AnnMarie_Keegan) April 4, 2017
That letter has now been seen by Balls.ie. It was sent to the entire squad, and is signed by High-Performance Director Ruud Dokter, Operations Director Peter Sherrard, and Head of Women's Development Sue Ronan.
The letter confirms that the FAI were willing to offer the players a financial package, as they laid out in their earlier statement. It also confirms the FAI's refusal to engage with the players via the medium of the PFAI, although were willing to deal with the players directly or via an "agreed third party independent mediator".
The letter also states that "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".
The statement is reproduced in full below:
We refer to the letter received from the PFAI union today in response to our letter to you all of the 28th March.
As outlined previously the Association will not and has not ever engaged with the PFAI with regard to our national teams either men or women and will only deal with you directly. We are disappointed not to have received a response to our letter of the 28th March which clearly outlined the improvements that have been made in women's football over the last number of years, and those made specifically in relation to the Women's National Team. This comes after repeated attempts to meet directly with you since our original meeting in July last year.
This letter also confirmed that we are prepared to make a financial offer to you, however we need to meet directly with you since our original meeting in July last year.
As previously confirmed, funding for the women's national team has increased greatly over the last number of years. Your threatened action is jeopardising our applications for such funding and our energies would be far better spent in working together to resolve any outstanding issues and in supporting such applications. In that regard we want your support in our submissions to government so that they can see the challenges you face and how increased government funding could make a real difference to you the athletes.
There is a real danger that the consequences of your actions that you have threatened, and your refusal to engage directly with will set back the development of the game generally, and the development of your own careers as players. Once again we confirm that want to engage properly with you and that we have genuine financial proposals to put to you.
We note that you are in camp on Wednesday next the 5th of April and in an effort to resolve and put our proposals to you, we would like to meet with you directly then. As a suggested approach, which has been the case for the men's national team, we would like to propose that three players meet with us to discuss these issues. We would also be willing to appoint an agreed independent third party mediator to facilitate this meeting.
We confirm that Colin will work his schedule so that you are available to meet with us as he is anxious that the issues are resolved.
We hope that this will give you the comfort that you require to re-establish direct communications and a good working relationship that is in everyone's best interest.
High Performance Director
Head of Women's Development