Levelling the Field Report identifies increasingly unsustainable commitment of female intercounty players without progression on minimum standards, travel expenses and equitable funding
The WGPA today released figures from research carried out on the experiences of intercounty female players. The Levelling the Field Report conducted early in 2020, prior to the onset of Covid-19, highlights the commitment and costs now required to play at the highest level.
The challenges presented in the short term by the economic consequences of Covid-19 are acknowledged. However the data will now be used to develop a long-term strategy to enhance the experiences of female inter-county players and ensure their voices are heard by decision makers, maximizing the opportunity to build back better.
Some of the key findings include:
- 5 to 6 training days per week,
- 7 hours contact time on a training day (inc travel),
- 74% are so tired from the mental demands that they struggle to work / study,
- 80km average round trip to training to over three group sessions per week,
- 93% of players not in receipt of any travel expenses,
- Up to €200 per week spent on fuel costs to accommodate training,
- 77% of players pay towards their own physio services,
- 69% of players pay towards their own gym fees,
- 55% pay for their own medical treatments,
- 34% take part in marketing and promotional activity linked to their sport; of these 65% do not receive any compensation.
These statistics paint a similar picture to the time invested by male players, as reported in the most recent ESRI report completed in 2018. Female and male players train on 5.6 v 6.1 days per week for 2.7 and 2.9 hours respectively. Overall, the training commitment of male and female players is comparable.
Case studies with individual female players also highlight the extent of travel required, with some players recording over 1,500 miles completed per month, with none of the expenses covered.
534 members completed an online survey, the largest study into the experiences of female intercounty players since the ‘Making Things Better’ report in 2014. Since then, the Intercounty Government Grant Scheme has been introduced; a team-based grant to support access to professional services and specialist facilities. Over 90% of players have reported improved standards as a result. However, it remains a challenge that male players receive over four times more investment through government funding than female players (€3m v €700k in 2020).
Recommendations arising from the report to support female intercounty players include:
- Lobby government to increase funding for female players through the grants scheme to achieve more equitable balance in comparison to male counterparts
- Introduction of a practical player expenses model, by identifying and implementing collaborative funding solutions.
- Progress on minimum standards, via squad charter, rate cards and injury funds.
- Devising best practice for supporting high performance players through all of their sporting commitments.
- One player’s voice, with the integration of the male and female playing bodies, to act as a leading advocate on equality in Gaelic Games.
Chairperson Maria Kinsella said “These findings clearly demonstrate the increasingly unsustainable demands of the female intercounty games. We fully appreciate there are no short term solutions to a lot of the issues identified and on the back of a trying year, it will be a challenge for us all to ensure that the interests of female players remain on the agenda as we rebuild. We look forward to working with our partners and players to achieve the aims outlined.”
Former Cork All-Star Aoife Murray added “There has been significant conversation and concentration on female sport in the last number of years, in particular with the 20×20 campaign which came to a close last week. It’s now time to build on this momentum and ensure that practical steps are taken to work towards equality in Gaelic Games in the coming years ”
Dublin captain Sinead Aherne commented “For all the challenges, players continue to love playing for their county and representing their clubs and families on the biggest stage. All players are seeking is an equality of opportunity, an equal footing to allow us to perform to the best of our potential. Enhanced investment will lead to higher standards for players, a better quality product which is more attractive to supporters and sponsors alike ultimately, the continued growth of our games”
The WGPA will continue to work with the GPA regarding a closer relationship to strengthen the voice of all players both male and female. The WGPA is also keen to work proactively and positively with the LGFA, the Camogie Association and all stakeholders, to ensure the current crop of female inter-county players and future generations are given the best possible environment to enjoy their sport, to achieve their full potential as the top exponents of our indigenous games and to be recognised as the role models that they are in Irish society.