The Professional Footballers’ Association has warned there is still much to be done to achieve parity between male and female football players, despite “significant” changes to new player contracts for the women’s game.
Following 16 months of negotiations with the Football Association, agreement has been reached on the inclusion of a comprehensive Family Leave Policy, which covers maternity rights for players, improved illness and injury rights and changes to the termination period in standard contracts.
The PFA’s director of women’s football, Marie-Christine Bouchier, said that the disparity between the rights of male and female players is emblematic of a wider disparity in conditions. “Take two England internationals who play for the same club – one in the Premier League, one in the WSL,” she said.
“If both those players suffer the same serious injury on the same day, under the existing WSL contract a player can be dismissed by their club if a medic thinks the injury will prevent them from playing for three consecutive months. In that instance, the player only has the right to a three-month notice of termination.
“However, for the Premier League player, the injury would need to keep them out for 18 months in any consecutive 20-month period before their contract could be terminated. In that situation, they would have the right to a 12-month notice of termination.”
Talks between the PFA and the FA are ongoing and Bouchier said they are confident that another issue, which allows a player’s contract to expire before the club exercises its option to retain that player, leaving them in limbo “will be remedied imminently”.
She also warned that the new contracts must be implemented wholesale and not staggered in, allowing for a two-tier employment system to develop: “It is vital that the new changes are adopted by all, as opposed to being implemented on a piecemeal basis, as each player enters into a new contract.”
In addition to negotiating on the standardised contracts, the union said it plans to create a Women’s Professional Football Negotiating and Consultative Committee, similar to the body which exists for male players.
“Within the men’s game, the PFNCC has been integral to the development of professional football, providing football’s stakeholders with a forum to debate, agree and implement changes across the game collaboratively,” said Bouchier, who added that the lack of a football-funded pension scheme is an example of how a women’s committee could benefit progress.
“Male professional players each received a pension contribution of £6,180 a season,” she said. “This benefit is funded by a levy on transfer fees from the Premier League and EFL clubs. Clearly, an equivalent process will not be sufficient in the WSL and Championship, so we need to find an alternative solution. This is something that will require a concerted, game-wide approach.”
The PFA chief executive, Maheta Molango, added that the organisation, which does not currently represent Women’s Championship players, has the objective of doing so but said that “we want to reach a position of professionalisation in the Women’s Championship”, adding: “Currently, there are complexities around how the FA classifies both the league and the participating clubs that needs to be addressed.
“These issues impact the contractual rights, working conditions and protections of those playing in the Championship and these will form a significant part of the ongoing discussions with the FA.”