GFF issues statement on concerns raised by Lady Jags

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The Guyana Football Federation (GFF) on Saturday issued a detailed statement, outlining its position with regards to the concerns raised by the Lady Jags, the country’s senior national women’s football team.

The Lady Jags earlier this week wrote to First Lady Arya Ali and Sport Minister Charles Ramson Jr., seeking their intervention in addressing the disparity that exists between the men and women national team programmes.

Signed by the majority of players who have been with the female programme since 2009, the players said they are united in their call for “equal and fair treatment.”

Below is the statement issued by the GFF.

The Guyana Football Federation acknowledges the concerns raised by members of the Senior Women’s National Team (SWNT) in a letter shared with the Government of Guyana and the media this week.

“It is regrettable that this highly-valued group of players did not avail themselves of the opportunity to raise their concerns directly with the Federation’s executive or administration,” said GFF President Wayne Forde.

“However, the Federation recognises the seriousness of the issues raised and is deeply concerned that some of Guyana’s most valued players feel disenfranchised in this way. The Executive Committee will be reaching out to the players to meet and discuss the matter in the coming days,” he said.

Among the concerns raised by some members of the SWNT are the “unfair and inequitable distribution of resources and supports,” which manifest themselves in them not being paid for matches and them having to “buy their own practice kits or pay for their own practice fields.”

The Federation acknowledges that the members of the SWNT are not paid match fees. Accordingly, it is the Federation’s intention to develop a comprehensive compensation policy, consistent with international best practices.

This policy will cover key areas such as out of pocket allowance, stipend, match fees, and bonuses, and is expected to be fully implemented ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers in November of this year.

It is apposite to note that there was a relaunch of women’s football in 2017. A critical element of the relaunch was the establishment of the International Support Group (ISG), based in North America, that serves as the interface between the Federation and the international coaching staff and players.

The ISG, which is composed of eminently qualified persons, plays a critical role in identification and selection of international players for the SWNT, as well as coordinating team camps and preparations.

When the current Executive Committee took office in November 2015, it committed to completely restructuring the existing SWNT programme, in part to ensure that no financial burden would be transferred to players or parents in the future, as had been the case previously.

Wayne Forde- President of the Guyana Football Federation

This restructuring required an internal process of review, policymaking, the establishment of the ISG, and the recruitment of new staff. Since the relaunch, all associated costs for the SWNT’s participation in matches, including flights, transportation, accommodation, training equipment, match kits, and other equipment acquisition have been paid for by the Federation.

For the first subsequent international engagement in April 2018, the Federation introduced a stipend policy for players in competition, with the female youth teams being its first beneficiaries.

Another concern of the Lady Jaguars is that the team has “sat dormant for three years.” The record shows that, during this period, the only available opportunity to compete was for Olympics qualification.

FIFA, Concacaf and the CFU had staged no other tournaments during this time.

The decision to withdraw from the Olympic qualifiers was not taken lightly and was only made after a comprehensive assessment. Our inability to field a competitive team due to unavailability of our college players, who were in the midst of their football season, was the primary factor in that decision.

One of the more disheartening claims made is that the Federation practices “systemic bias.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Gender equality is an urgent issue that requires deep structural changes throughout society, and beyond the limited influence of sport. The Federation is determined to remain a leading light in promoting, fostering and delivering positive change for women among sports federations in Guyana and beyond,” Forde said.

“We would like to reassure the football community and the nation that the Federation is committed to gender equality and fair and equitable representation and treatment for women in all our activities. The Federation does not practice systemic bias with regard to women, and women are certainly not treated or regarded as ‘second class’ citizens by my administration.”

President of the Guyana National Association for Women’s Football (GNAWF), Andrea Johnson, said: “I would like to first acknowledge the seriousness of the concerns raised by the players. As President of the Guyana National Association for Women’s Football and a woman, I have a duty to work with the GFF in assessing any gender-oriented bias and once determined to exist, work towards bringing about the necessary changes.”

“Notwithstanding that these issues were never raised with GNAWF, I wish to assure the affected players of my full support in addressing their concerns,” Johnson said.

“While it is fair to say that we still have a long road to travel in the development of women’s football in Guyana, I can attest to the significant progress the GFF has made since 2015. The GFF has fully funded Guyana’s participation in international tournaments over the past five years, with our teams recording more than credible results on each occasion.”

President of the ISG, Rebecca Vaughan, also commented on the issue, saying: “Whilst the International Support Group had no prior knowledge of any communication between our Lady Jaguars and our Government; we acknowledge the ongoing work that needs to be done to address gender inequity. We are mindful of the current administration’s meaningful progress that has significantly advanced the women’s game in Guyana. The grassroots development and investment have resulted in female domestic players earning the opportunity to represent our beloved country at the senior international level.”

The Federation recognises there is a long way to go in creating a level playing field for women in football. However, the facts show that meaningful and measurable progress has been made in Guyana since this administration took office in 2015, with the assistance of FIFA, Concacaf and the ISG.

As an example, between 2016 and 2020, the Lady Jaguars played more than twice (125%) the number of international matches than in the period 2011 and 2015. Female youth national team engagements rose 300% between the same periods, as the current administration established new teams to compete at U-15 and U-20 level, and invested further in the U-17 programme.

The 2021 calendar for female national teams is as follows:

Senior Women’s National Team: FIFA Women’s World Cup Concacaf qualifiers (November)

U-20 Women’s National Team: Concacaf U-20 Championship qualifiers (September)

U-17 Girls’ National Team: Concacaf U-17 Championship qualifiers (August)

U-14 Girls’ National Team: Caribbean Football Union Challenge Series (dates TBC)

The Federation seizes this opportunity to reassure the football community, and indeed the nation, that gender equity has always been, and will continue to be, the lodestar that guides how it administers football.

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