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Equal Conditions for Men & Women in Professional Football

Equal Conditions for Men & Women in Professional Football

The trade union representing New Zealand's professional footballers has initiated bargaining for an agreement securing equal terms and conditions for men and women. If negotiated, it will be the first agreement of its kind in the world.

"This is a major moment for football in New Zealand" said former Football Fern Sarah Gregorius. "It is a world first - and an opportunity for New Zealand once again to lead the way in securing equal rights for women.”

Bargaining for the new agreement will be undertaken by the NZPFA, the union which represents both the All Whites and the Football Ferns.

"One of the cool things about this process has been the amount of support that the women have received from the All Whites' players" said former All Whites' great, Ivan Vicelich. "The guys really understand how hard it is for women in our sport, and how much disadvantage they have to overcome to represent their country. Securing this agreement will be a big step forward - not just for women, but for the whole game in New Zealand".

The NZPFA has succeeded in the past in negotiating many common benefits for each of men and women, including the following:

A Player in either team gets a daily rate of $115 when they are assembled with that team.

Players are entitled to 40% of any FIFA prize money won by their team.

Players' image rights – and obligations to perform promotional services – are protected, and regulated.

The new agreement will, however, go significantly further in protecting women's rights. It will secure:

an acceptance by New Zealand Football of its obligations owed under FIFA's Code of Ethics and FIFA's Human Rights Policy;

disclosure of New Zealand Football's plans (if any) for the development of the women's game under the FIFA Forward programme, and agreement about how to use this initiative for the benefit for women footballers in New Zealand;

equal travel benefits for Football Ferns who are required to travel to New Zealand to play for their country.

Gregorius described the agreement sought as "an opportunity for New Zealand Football to demonstrate its commitment to development of women's football.”

"Traditionally, Football Federations around the world have sought to excuse disparate treatment on the basis that not enough people watch the women's game, therefore they cannot justify spending to develop it. That attitude has now been debunked by FIFA, which has called for all of its members to develop women's football - through its FIFA Forward programme.”

FIFA's ethics training does, in fact, require Member Federations expressly to acknowledge that spending on women's football should not be related to the revenue generated by the women's game: there are greater social objectives which must be achieved, including respect of women through equality of treatment.

All Whites' striker, Chris Wood, confirmed the male players' commitment to the goal sought to be achieved through bargaining. "My sister, Chelsey, also played for New Zealand. She went to two Under 20 World Cups, and is one of the best players of her generation. The road for her to success was so much harder because she was a woman - playing in a part of the game which isn't as highly regarded, or supported, as it should be. What we are trying to do is just a small step. But it might just cause a ripple that people sit up and notice - and all the lads are 100% behind that.”

In 2017 the world union of professional players, FIFPro, undertook a survey of conditions in women's professional football. It found that poor treatment caused 87% of all female players to consider early retirement from the game.

Earlier this year, that statistic had real meaning for New Zealand, which witnessed the retirements of each of Katie Duncan, Jasmine Pereira and captain Abby Erceg.

"I think it's important to understand what we are asking for" said NZPFA Chair, Harry Ngata. "We are not asking New Zealand Football to extend beyond its means or to suddenly be responsible for playing all our players a living wage: it's about dignity, and respect. Our Football Ferns should be given the same opportunities to succeed as our men - and they should be recognised for their contributions to football in our country. That means supporting their development, being respectful of their need to work and study, and inviting them to banner events like the football dinners and major games.”

"Some people may struggle to see why this is such a big deal: and they are the people who most need to have their eyes opened about the reality of the challenges women face in sport." said Gregorius. "Securing equal rights in this sport will mean a lot right now to the small number of women who will benefit directly - but it could also lead to change elsewhere in other sports, and, actually, a change to wider attitudes in our society".

New Zealand Football is currently one of five bidders seeking to host the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Bargaining will commence in the next week.


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