Monday was a historic day for women’s football in Ireland with the announcement that the men’s and women’s national team players will be paid the same match fees for the first time in Irish football history.
The deal was agreed by the men’s and women’s teams and the FAI and is a ground-breaking moment for sport in this country.
Karen Duggan, a former Republic of Ireland international who was part of the 2017 strike by the women’s national set-up due to the mistreatment of the squad in comparison to their male counterparts, believes that yesterday’s announcement is a continuation of the work that has been done to improve the treatment of female players since 2017.
Speaking to KCLR’s The Way It Is on Monday, Duggan said: “It was good that what we stood up for in 2017 is being continued on by the current crop of players who have tried to help grow the women’s game.
“At that time, we were looking for better conditions and to make sure that players were not going to be out of pocket to play. Thankfully that was resolved, and yesterday’s announcement brings it forward again.”
The Peamount United star praised the men’s team who took a voluntary pay-cut in order for the deal to come to fruition.
“A lot of the credit has to go to the men too for taking a cut.
“It might not seem like it’s too much, but the gesture in itself is massive and it will show younger girls that there is parity and equality to look forward to in the future,” said Duggan.
Reflecting on arguably the biggest off-the-pitch moment in the history of Irish women’s football in 2017 when 13 players, including Duggan, spoke to the media about being treated like “fifth class citizens” by the FAI, the Piltown woman expanded on the reasons for such a drastic measure to take place.
She explained: “We felt that we weren’t anybody’s priority and that standards were allowed to slip. It was clear that the FAI didn’t appreciate how much effort that we were putting into preparation for games and how much hard work went into it.
“We wanted that same level of commitment reciprocated to us by the FAI. Thankfully that is somewhat happening now, but the work is nowhere near being done despite yesterday’s news.”
The 2020 Women’s National League Player of the Year believes that there has been tangible improvement for the women’s national team that has stemmed from open and transparent dialogue with the FAI.
“There seems to be a more progressive dialogue now between the women’s team and the FAI and if everyone is pulling in the same direction, we will see more success on the pitch.
“The goal is to qualify for a major tournament and that still hasn’t happened but if we’re on the same page the chances of that happening improve considerably.”
While a lot of the news around women’s football seems to be dominated by off-the-pitch issues, Duggan wanted to highlight the extraordinary success of her Peamount United team in 2020.
The Dublin outfit won a league and cup double, something that was particularly sweet for the midfielder who also picked up the 2020 Player of the Year award, having previously lost out in 5 cup finals.
“Last year was brilliant. We won the double and football was a real outlet for all of us and it kept us sane during the pandemic.
“I was lucky enough to pick up the Player of the Year award, but the league and cup medals meant a lot more to me than the individual accolades.”
The 30-year-old has also begun a new venture recently in the form of TV punditry on RTE. Duggan was widely celebrated and lauded for her fresh opinions and different perspective on games throughout Euro 2020 and she says that it has been a “really enjoyable experience” so far.
“It’s been really enjoyable to do some punditry with RTE. It was such a great experience to be discussing football with the likes of Richie Sadlier, Didi Hamann and Damien Duff.
“It keeps me involved with international football because I’m retired from the national team.