Soccer Star Wins Landmark Maternity Lawsuit

On Tuesday, French soccer club Olympique Lyonnaisto — popularly known as Lyon — was ordered to pay former player Sara Bjork Gunnarsdóttir €82K ($88K) in unpaid salaries following a landmark FIFA tribunal ruling last May

Soccer Star Wins Landmark Maternity Lawsuit
Image credit: AP [via Sky News]
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Facts

  • On Tuesday, French soccer club Olympique Lyonnaisto — popularly known as Lyon — was ordered to pay former player Sara Bjork Gunnarsdóttir €82K ($88K) in unpaid salaries following a landmark FIFA tribunal ruling last May.
  • According to a statement by the global players' union FIFPro, Lyon must also pay an additional 5% annual interest from Sept. 10, 2022, until the outstanding dues have been cleared. The French club reportedly faces a transfer ban if it fails to pay the compensation within 45 days.
  • The midfielder termed the verdict 'a wake-up call for all clubs' and said her victory sends a strong message that all players who get pregnant have 'rights and guarantees.' 'This is not 'just business,' Gunnarsdóttir tweeted.
  • Gunnarsdóttir joined Lyon in 2020 and won two Champions League titles before leaving for Juventus in July 2022. The 32-year-old captain of the Iceland national team had alleged Lyon did not pay her full salary after she signed off on maternity leave in April 2021.
  • As per FIFA rules, female players are entitled to a maternity leave of at least 14 weeks — at a minimum of two-thirds of their contracted salary. In addition, clubs must offer alternate employment and provide adequate medical and physical support on their return.
  • The club blamed French law for not allowing it to follow FIFA regulations, including the 'duty of care' guidelines.

Sources: Sky, BBC News, Bleacherreport, Mirror, Fifa and Espn.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by Playerstribune. This ruling highlights the trauma pregnant footballers must endure safeguarding their basic professional rights. Not just the demands of strict training and playing schedules, but also how soccer clubs' severe lack of support for their expecting players during and after pregnancy are usually incompatible with raising a child. Women players are often pressured to push back having children until retirement. However, Gunnarsdóttir's victory indicates the tides are changing.
  • Narrative B, as provided by Rugbypass. Only a few professional soccer players have given birth during their playing careers. There are many reasons players may decide not to have children until retirement, though job security is likely a major factor. Biological differences in strength, speed, and stamina are often used as excuses for pay inequality between men's and women's sports. Until systematic sexism in sports is addressed, such victories will elude female players who face highly precarious playing careers.