Friday 31 May 2024, 13:00

“A big statement”: FIFA introduces measures to further protect female players and coaches

  • Female players and coaches to be provided with additional protections to their well-being

  • Jill Ellis said that women should not have to juggle their career and children

  • Protections unanimously endorsed by FIFA Council

Jill Ellis is speaking from personal experience when she talks about protecting the well-being of female players and coaches. The two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup™ winner remembers trying to coach a college team after adopting her three-month-old daughter, and the difficulties of trying to juggle the two roles. “(A football career) shouldn’t be exclusive of being a mum or raising a child, it should be inclusive of that,” she said. “If I didn’t have support around me, I wouldn’t have had the ability to do that and maintain my career.” FIFA, however, has been listening to the concerns of women in the game and, following thorough discussions with key stakeholders and a previous set of landmark reforms, has moved to further protect their well-being by implementing changes to the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) that will enter into force on 1 June 2024.

Approved by the FIFA Council in May 2024, these changes will extend the rights and protections to adoptive parents as well as non-biological mothers. They will also recognise the physical, psychological and social dimensions in the event of an inability to provide employment services due to severe menstruation, or medical complications relating to pregnancy, and member associations will be encouraged to allow female players to have contact with their families while on international duty. “FIFA is committed to implementing a dynamic regulatory framework that is sound and suitable for the increasing needs of female players and coaches,” said FIFA Chief Legal & Compliance Officer Emilio García Silvero. “In order for the game to further flourish, it’s absolutely key that we have a holistic approach towards player well-being, including the legal aspects.”

FIFA Chief Legal & Compliance Officer Emilio Garcia Silvero

“As a modern organisation, it’s FIFA’s duty to listen to the main actors and adapt its regulations to the ever more complex dynamics of professional football. We would like to thank all the stakeholders that have contributed to the drafting of these robust regulations, and look forward to seeing them being implemented and positively affecting the lives and careers of women in football.” “I think it’s a big statement,” said Ellis, who led FIFA’s Technical Study Group at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ and coached the USA to Women’s World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019. “These are big steps and big strides to really normalise the life that we go through as women … that’s what we want to provide now at every level, the club level, the national team level – the opportunity for pro players to have the chance to be mums.”

Jill Ellis

The steps deliver on important points in Goal 2 of FIFA’s Strategic Objectives for the Global Game: 2023-2027, which describe the organisation’s commitment to exploring and implementing further safeguards for player and coach welfare.

Like Ellis, former Germany international Fatmire Alushi – a FIFA Women’s World Cup winner in 2007 – has first-hand experience of raising children while pursuing a football career. “I appreciate very much FIFA getting involved to protect pregnant women so that they can have a good feeling, enjoy their pregnancy, and can get support during and after the pregnancy,” said the mother of four.

Fatmire Alushi

FIFA Chief Football Women’s Officer Dame Sarai Bareman said the new measures recognised that the players are the main stakeholders. “They are the ones who are on the field, who are playing the sport, they’re training hard every day, really sacrificing a lot to entertain the fans and to deliver the beautiful matches that we see,” she said. The measures also recognise that women have different biological make-ups, she said. “When you’re playing sport for a living, and in a professional environment, we have to factor in that the female menstrual cycle can also impact on your ability to deliver within your role. So, it’s important that we protect … those that are affected by their menstrual cycles in a way that it doesn’t put at risk their employment situation with their club and, ultimately, their ability to earn money.”

Bareman welcomed the move to encourage more family contact for national team players. “In a FIFA Women’s World Cup, (a player) can potentially be away from her family for five or six weeks … and that can have a big toll on the player, mentally, but also on the child. “So, encouraging the member associations to make provision or to allow for those mothers and parents to have the children with them during the camp, during the tournament, is a really important step which will support not only female players but all players in our sport.”