The International Federation intends to better protect pregnant footballers and impose maternity leave “of at least 14 weeks” from next year, as well as a ban on dismissing players because of their pregnancy.
“We want to see more women play football, and at the same time have a family,” Sarai Bareman, FIFA’s head of women’s football, told several journalists after a meeting of its Football Actors Commission. The International Federation therefore announced on Thursday that it would propose at its December Council a series of measures immediately applicable to its 211 member federations, which currently offer a very unequal framework according to local laws and practices.
The Zurich body has not been aware of “serious problems” so far, according to its legal director Emilio Garcia, but it intends to “anticipate” when women’s football is strongly accelerating its professionalization. Clubs engaged at the international level – therefore placed under the jurisdiction of Fifa – will first have to offer maternity leave “of at least 14 weeks”, remunerated “at least two thirds of the contractual salary” of the player.
They will be prohibited from “subjecting the validity of contracts to the fact that the player is pregnant or becomes pregnant”: in the event of dismissal for this reason, the club will be sanctioned not only financially but also “sporting”. Finally, after maternity leave, the clubs will “reinstate the players and provide them with appropriate medical and physical support,” said Emilio Garcia, a question that promises to be crucial in practice.
An impact sport, football forces players to abandon traditional training early in their pregnancy, even when they are pursuing physical preparation, and several of them described the difficulty of returning to a high level after childbirth. Professional footballers who continue their careers once they become mothers remain very rare, with the exception of American champions like Amy Rodriguez, Sydney Leroux or star scorer Alex Morgan, who is aiming for the Tokyo Olympics after giving birth to a little girl in last May.
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