The international players’ union FIFPro is calling for continued financial support of women’s soccer worldwide in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
FIFPro issued a report Thursday warning of COVID-19’s impact, saying it is “likely to present an almost existential threat to the women’s game if no specific considerations are given to protect the women’s football industry.”
The report notes that the global absence of industry standards and worker protections means women are especially vulnerable and that an economic downturn could affect otherwise stable clubs.
There are signs the pandemic is already taking a toll in addition to the cancellation and postponement of league play and tournaments worldwide. In Colombia, Independiente Santa Fe suspended all player contracts for its women’s soccer team recently but said its men’s team would only see pay cuts.
The pandemic came at a time when women’s soccer was on the upswing, boosted by the success of last year’s World Cup in France.
“We do have concerns about investments in the women’s game being dropped or reduced or pre-crisis investments being withdrawn, ultimately, from the women’s game. We’re concerned that decision-makers might ignore the needs of women or exclude women’s football from recovering support programs,” said Amanda Vandervort, FIFPro chief women’s football officer. “But we’re here with solutions and to present ideas and innovations, and a new way to approach women’s football for the best interests of the players and the long-term success of our women’s football industry.”
A 2017 FIFPro survey showed most women’s players don’t earn a living wage: 60% of paid players take home less than $600 a month and 37% say they are paid late.
FIFPro laid out five recommendations for the industry: Prioritize player physical and mental care, apply special financial measures for players and clubs, ensure pre-pandemic investments aren’t withdrawn, make sure women are included in any financial relief measures and develop solidarity systems across the women’s game to insure its recovery.
“We just thought it was an absolute necessity to highlight, in the course of this crisis management problem, the importance of paying conscious attention to the women’s game because the damage that a crisis like this can have on an industry which has been growing so well but is still very fragile in many places, can be very drastic,” FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said.
The Netherlands-based organization plans to release a larger report later this month on the growth and development of women’s soccer.
“I think what is very clear, and we just have to come to terms with it, is that football, as many other parts of our society, will look very different very soon. And I think there is a fundamental question here whether we want to rebuild based on the initial short-term commercial views of the game only, or whether we want to start building it around a set of values that can actually sustain and bring out the best parts of what we are involved in, in the long term,” Baer-Hoffmann said.