MANCHESTER, England—Women’s soccer is falling short in key areas including medical support and pay, according to a survey of players involved in this year’s Women’s World Cup.
The survey, conducted by players’ union International Association of Football Professionals, or FIFPRO, and released Wednesday, found that 60 percent of respondents said they lacked mental health support, while one in three earned less than $30,000 a year from soccer.
“The players gave everything they had to put on a brilliant World Cup, but there are still important gaps that need addressing,’’ FIFPRO director of policy and strategic relations for women’s football Sarah Gregorius said. “We will be seeking to work through these issues with stakeholders and resolve them as soon as possible.”
The World Cup was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand in July and August. It boasted record attendances and viewing figures, with Spain being crowned champion after beating England in the final.
That match was overshadowed when then-Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips without her consent during the awards ceremony, leading to a players’ rebellion and accusations of sexual assault.
The survey highlighted further areas of concern relating to the conditions players were expected to operate under.
FIFPRO said it surveyed 260 players from 26 of the 32 national teams in the tournament.
It said 10 percent did not undergo a medical examination before the tournament. In what the union described as a “worrying statistic,” it said 22 percent did not have an electrocardiogram.
“Anything below 100 percent when it comes to access to an ECG or undertaking a pre-tournament medical is not acceptable,” FIFPRO head of strategy and research for women’s football Alex Culvin said. “All players need to complete these important checks before they compete, and the regulations need to be applied and adhered to in full.”
FIFPRO said two-thirds of players claimed they were not in peak condition by the time the tournament started and 53 percent believed they’d had insufficient rest before their opening game at the World Cup.
While FIFPRO guidelines recommend an “off-season break of four weeks, with a re-training period of six weeks,” it said 86 percent players returned their clubs less than two weeks after the tournament.
The union quotes an unnamed player as saying it was “mentally exhausting” to return to club soccer.
Besides one in three respondents earning less than $30,000 a year from soccer, the survey found that one in five needed a second job to supplement their income.
Those figures did not include a guaranteed pre-tax sum of at least $30,000 from World Cup prize money for every player.
“FIFA can confirm that it has credited prize money to cover the financial contribution specifically earmarked for all players at the record-breaking FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 to all 32 (associations),” world soccer’s governing body said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Since the conclusion of the tournament FIFA has provided tailored support to (associations) regarding the distribution of payments to players. This support is another concrete step taken by FIFA to develop women’s football and ensure players receive a fair deal.”
FIFA said the distributions would be subject to audit “in due course.”
FIFPRO said the results of the survey “show many players still lack adequate financial compensation.”
Among other findings, it also said some players had raised concerns about the standard of technical staff their national team had taken to the tournament. It said one player called for an “investigation into the qualification of technical staff brought by their federation.”
FIFPRO said the results “underscore the need for further player-centric improvements in international women’s football in key areas including the match calendar, medical support, and compensation.”
Image credits: AP