Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) has welcomed the findings and recommendations of the Human Rights Risk Assessment of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and has called on human and labour rights to be embedded within the tournament.  

Published by the Australian and New Zealand Human Rights Commissions this week, the Assessment highlighted over 57 risks to people impacted by the tournament, including:  

  • gender discrimination through a lack of pay parity (the current prize money of the Women’s World Cup represents just 7.5% offered within the Men’s World Cup);
  • an inability for players to join and form a union and collectively bargain;  
  • player welfare being put at risk through inadequate support;  
  • online abuse of athletes;
  • exclusion and marginalisation of Indigenous peoples and tokenistic representation; and  
  • media coverage that promotes harmful stereotypes of athletes.  

The Risk Assessment process included a submission from PFA and an extensive roundtable with a host of current and former Matildas and Socceroos which highlighted several direct human rights risks to players, including: 

  • discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual preference and race;  
  • harassment and abuse; 
  • denial of the right to freedom of association, organise and collectively bargain; 
  • threats to the health, safety and wellbeing of players;  
  • unjustified restrictions of freedom of expression; and  
  • the denial of basic legal rights 

“We were incredibly pleased to once again have the direct engagement of players in this process,who contributed to the Report through their lived experiences and shared commitment to protecting the rights of all impacted by the tournament,” PFA Co-Chief Executive Kathryn Gill said. 

“The 2023 Women’s World Cup presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for players on the pitch, but ensuring human rights are embedded within the tournament will be transformational for sport and ensure it is a tournament that we can all truly celebrate.  

“Embracing human rights will make football stronger and the players are committed to playing their part in ensuring the recommendations are implemented in full.”

PFA Executive Member and Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams was directly involved in the process and said players can drive positive outcomes and deliver a legacy for many people and communities.  

“We’re incredibly fortunate to have been able to collectively progress the rights of players here in Australia through the PFA and collective bargaining,” Williams said. 

“However, the experience for many of the 700 plus players who arrive in Australia and New Zealand in 2023 will be gender inequity, the lack of a genuine voice within their profession and the absence of the dignity that should come with playing the world’s greatest game on its greatest stage. 

“Equally the tournament must ensure respectful and genuine inclusion of First Nations people. Tokenism will not foster trust and change.”   

PFA Executive Member and Matildas midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight said Australia’s players were committed to driving lasting change. 

“When we step on the pitch, we are all equal but the reality off it is different,” said Kellond-Knight, who was also involved in the roundtable alongside Williams and their peers.

“Players from several countries will arrive in Australia and New Zealand unable to access the means in which we have been able to move forward – collective bargaining and forming a union.   

“If sport is to be a genuine force for good, we must address the systemic problems that continue to create and foster power imbalances. This can only occur if it embeds human rights.”