CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE / LONDON:  The disagreement between England’s Football Association and the women’s national team players casts a dark cloud over the game’s developing momentum.

The England women’s squad, coached by Hope Powell, have not signed their contracts with the Football Association after being offered £18,000 – a modest £2,000 increase on their £16,000 contracts which have been the same figure since 2009.

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, said: “Come on, that figure is embarrassing. Top Premier League players are earning more in a day.”

It certainly is embarrassing given the amount of coverage the player’s earned over the last year. It’s understood the negotiations between the PFA and FA centre around the additional 24 hours players are allowed to work each week in addition to their central contracts and money they receive on a semi-professional basis from their clubs.

Any contract discussion will inevitably involve compromise on both sides but especially as England players were not paid last month, they may feel that their endeavours should allow them more leeway to agree a deal.

Last year was a landmark 12 months for the game in England as record television audiences and record attendances at the Olympic matches proved that women’s football is becoming more popular with the increased exposure it is given.

The early signs were there in 2011 when record numbers tuned in to BBC to watch the Women’s World Cup held in Germany. This summer the BBC once again snapped up rights to show Euro 2013 in Sweden for which England qualified for comfortably. Qualifying matches had been shown on BBC Three and pulled in viewers.

Stunning goal

It was a momentous occasion when Team GB played Brazil at Wembley Stadium at London 2012 in the final group match. More than 70,000 people came to watch, at that time a record, and though Team GB were expected to put in a modest performance Steph Houghton stunned everyone by scoring in the second minute for GB.

As she slid to the floor in celebration with her team mates crowding on top of her, the loudest cheer for women’s football in the UK was echoing around her. There was a similar cheer when GB eventually won the game. And although they were stopped by the Canadians in the quarter-finals, every player came out of the tournament invigorated and with great memories.

So this is why it is a shame that the FA seem to want to get the cheapest deal possible with their players.

England and Lincoln Ladies defender Sophie Bradley told the BBC this week “I think it’s now got to the point where we need to be rewarded because of the amount of people who are interested in watching us play and the progression of the game”.

It is in this point that the FA needs to weigh up the costs and benefits. One problem with women’s football in England is the participation. That links in to publicity, access to teams and facilities available. But it all arguably stems from the example led by those at the front.

The current England team have a chance to push women’s football to a new level of popularity in 2013. But they can only keep up their standards by being rewarded correctly.

The FA may have a lot of financial concerns at the moment – particularly after investing heavily in the new St George’s Park complex of which will house all the England teams. But cost cutting should not come in the way of fairness.

Of course the women’s game has a long way to go to reach the level or profitability of the men’s – but the only way to increase participation and activity is to incentivise it.


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