Survey reveals uneven conditions for players in Women’s World Cup qualifiers

Many players say they had to play on poor pitches, with insufficient medical support and for no pay in their quests to reach the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

A survey of 362 players who took part in World Cup qualifying rounds found:

  • 54% did not receive a pre-tournament medical check.
  • 70% did not receive heart monitoring before qualifying tournaments.
  • 39% had no access to mental health support.
  • 29% received no pay for qualification games.
  • 60% do not consider themselves professional footballers.
  • 31% said training pitches were not an elite standard.
  • 32% considered match pitches and stadia not good enough.

The survey was carried out by the global players’ union, Fifpro, who say FIFA must improve conditions for all players who participate in qualifying rounds for the next World Cup.

Sarah Gregorious: ‘We want to prevent it happening again’

Fifpro women’s football lead Sarah Gregorius, a former Football Fern, told the BBC:

“Any stat below 100% in access to important medical checks is unacceptable.

“We just want to work with whoever wants to work with us, particularly FIFA and the confederations, to understand why that is the case and how that can be prevented (from happening again) because that is certainly not something that should be acceptable to anybody.”

Main photo: Sarah Gregorious … ‘we want to work with whoever wants to work with us.’

‘We are not financially supported enough’

The survey included players from all six regional confederations and covered medical support, training and match facilities and the demands placed on players.

Two-thirds of the players had to take leave or unpaid leave from another form of employment to play, the survey found.

“With the question about mental health, there was a psychologist that came with us over the first week there, but we met him late in the week we came into camp,” an anonymous UEFA player is quoted as saying in Fifpro’s findings.

The Fifpro report.

“My feeling is that it is more of a box to check than actually bringing in a person who understands the pressure of being a national team player in a tournament or a professional player.

“Personally, I would have really needed a person to talk to but the person that came with us hasn’t played the game at this level and just graduated with his degree and I didn’t feel like I could talk to him.”

Another anonymous UEFA player said: “We are not financially supported enough. Some of our girls had to take unpaid vacation at work and it wasn’t sure if they can even attend the tournament.”

“My concerns are that some team accommodations and facilities are better than others, so some teams are better rested for games,” an anonymous player from the Oceania region said.

“One thing is that all teams should have the same standard off the pitch, to make sure on the pitch we are playing fair.”

‘Conditions put players and the sport at risk’

In the foreword to the report, co-signed by Fifpro president David Aganzo and general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, the union says:

“During qualification, the conditions that the players are exposed to and expected to deliver in, during some of the biggest competitive moments of their lives, are not up to the standards of elite international football, putting both the players and the sport at risk.

“In highlighting these conditions and the status of players across the globe, Fifpro firmly calls on the industry to take a closer look at the qualification processes in each of the six confederations.”

Read the full report

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