Women’s football faces “concrete risks” and could be hit much harder by coronavirus than the men’s game, world players’ union Fifpro has warned.
Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, Fifpro’s general secretary, is concerned investments in the women’s game may stall.
Women’s football saw widespread global growth in participation and attendances after 2019’s World Cup.
“It has been on an upward trend, but a positive trend can still be quite fragile,” Baer-Hoffmann said.
“We do see a threat that certain programmes will shut down or not see the same attention as before.
“The long-term consequences [of the pandemic] in terms of the equality and the diversity in our game could be much harder hit on the women’s side.”
He continued: “There are a couple of concrete risks. One is a stalling of the investment we’ve recently seen – we need to still keep building up investment in women’s football to sustain professional development.
“We’ve also seen the postponement of international tournaments. The women’s game still requires to have these big public events, like an World Cup, Olympics, Euros, because these events are massive platforms on which many players are building their careers.
“That’s because it’s the only international platform on which they’re seen by clubs who might be interested in their services afterwards.”
Unlike in the men’s game, women’s teams at the Olympics can select their first-choice senior national sides for the Games in Tokyo, which have been postponed until 2021.
‘We must build a common vision’
Fifpro released a paper on Thursday outlining the “existential threat” facing the women’s game because of the pandemic, with the average length of a player’s contract just over 12 months long.
“Now is the time to have this conversation about women’s football. Not in a couple of weeks or a couple of months, now,” said Fifpro’s chief women’s football officer Amanda Vandervort.
“We do have deep concerns about investments in the women’s game being reduced or withdrawn. Together the industry has to build a common vision. Together we’ll achieve sustainable growth.”
Baer-Hoffmann added that the vast majority of female athletes cannot afford to voluntarily take the kind of wage deductions or referrals that have been seen at high level of the men’s game, because of their low salaries.
On Tuesday, however, the England women’s team collectively made a donation to the NHS, supporting a scheme set up by men’s Premier League players.
Asked if she had friends in the game who were worried about losing their jobs, England striker Jodie Taylor said: “I don’t think anybody feels safe at this time.
“Nobody really knows how long this is going to last for. So as much as I believe our league and club here are being as transparent as they can, who knows what the future will bring.
“It’s a stressful reality and one that we’re all sitting back and waiting for. It’s very unknown.”