The Matildas’ strong collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is “absolutely an advantage” at the Women’s World Cup, according to former Australia international and players’ union co-chief Kate Gill.
Australia’s national teams, represented by players’ union Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), signed a CBA with Football Australia in 2019 that established equal pay between the Socceroos and Matildas, as well as ensuring that Australia’s women would receive maternity support and equal access to the same off-field benefits as Australia’s men.
Initially set to expire during the Women’s World Cup, a short-term extension of that agreement was secured earlier this year at the Matildas’ encouragement in order to avoid any potential distraction during a home tournament.
This labour peace and strong material support for the side, who began their World Cup with a 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland last Thursday, stands in stark contrast to several nations competing at the tournament.
In the Matildas’ group alone, both Canada and Nigeria have been mired in disputes with their federation over working and pay conditions — forcing the two teams to engage in what Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt referred to as “compartmentalisation” as they sought to put their focus on the football during the tournament proper.
“There are only a handful of countries that have secured collective agreements that deliver world-class conditions and standards,” Gill told ESPN. “Each of those countries, including Australia, has achieved these standards through players fighting for progress — often over decades and through significant industrial action.
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“Those players who now enjoy these conditions have a world-class high-performance environment in which to prepare for any international tournament, but they also have certainty, which allows them to focus on their tournament performance.
“There are many interconnected factors which contribute to a successful tournament performance, but players having access to high-performance environments and a high degree of certainty over employment and pay — all of which is delivered by a CBA — is absolutely an advantage.”
Football Australia chief executive James Johnson told ESPN that the federation had a strong partnership with both the PFA and the playing group and had adopted a player-centric model during his tenure.
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“If we go back to 2020, we went through a high performance [review] where we went through systematic processes and even personnel changes at FA,” Johnson told ESPN.
“Right at the centre of what we were trying to do in this high-performance transformation was to put the players at the centre of our culture, which meant that we had to do more listening about issues that were important to the players.
“We know what issues are important to them and we’ve really tried to shape our policies, our systems, our programs around issues that are important to the players and I think that sets us up very nicely now because a lot of these issues are behind us not in front of us.
“When it comes to high-performance culture, whether it’s sports science, or whether it’s mental health, we are leaders.”
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