Professional women footballers from England will get maternity and long-sickness cover included in their contracts in what is being hailed as a landmark move. For the first time, players in 24 Women's Super League and Women's Championship clubs will benefit from the newly-added clause in their contracts.
Sunderland's Central MP, Julie Elliott, lauded this initiative agreed upon by the Football Association and Professional Footballers' Association. "I am delighted that the FA and PFA have agreed on a player contract for the top two tiers that enables maternity and long sickness cover," she tweeted, adding further about the inclusion of Women's World Cup and Euro tournament.
Ensuring Contractual Parity
The Professional Footballers' Association has been working towards bridging the gender gap in sports contracts for quite some time now. Quoted by ESPN, PFA's women's football director Marie-Christine Bouchier said, "Over the last 16 months, the PFA has been working with the FA to address the significant disparities between the contractual rights and obligations of male and female players in English club football. Their aim has been consistent throughout these talks- to ensure contractual parity for our female members compared to the men's game."
The all-important announcement came in two years after FIFA's statement on protecting female players and coaches who were discriminated against regarding maternity matters. The framework includes mandatory maternity leave of 14 weeks at a minimum of two-thirds of the players' salary, clubs providing female players adequate medical care after their return and ensuring that they are not left out of any important opportunity.
Long Time Coming
The recent years saw a rise in voices supporting women who juggle motherhood as effortlessly as a football. While the maternity benefits were still present, the FA stated that it was not a part of the standard players' contract, and it was at the club's discretion. According to The Guardian, many raised concerns. One of them is the American forward Alex Morgan, who welcomed her daughter, Charlie, in 2020.
A British footballer named Helen Ward told the news publication, "We've seen how long it has taken Alex Morgan, one of the best players in the world that probably has the best people around her and the best access to staff. For everyone else, you've got to think it's going to take something similar, if not more. It's a tough subject and one that needs a lot more work."
The Westminster Hall hosted the debate on the provisions that Elliott herself convened. Compared to men, sportswomen do not have it easy. "Women playing professional are often faced with short contracts, low pay, and poor working conditions, said Coventry MP, Taiwo Owatemi, emphasising the pressing need of the hour. Indeed, the landmark inclusion in the contract is a step in the right direction. However, there is still a long way to go.
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