The women’s football community has rallied around Birmingham City after Telegraph Sport revealed its squad had sent a formal list of complaints to the club about their working conditions.
England internationals Fran Kirby, Leah Williamson and Beth England were among dozens that shared their public support for their fellow Women’s Super League players in Birmingham, who on Monday spoke out about concerns they say “prevent us from performing our jobs to the best of our ability”.
The entire first-team squad signed a letter to the club’s board listing grievances that included access to changing facilities and gyms and a limited playing budget. The club responded by insisting it is “doing our best on and off the pitch” for the players, but Birmingham captain Christie Murray tweeted Telegraph Sport’s report and her frustration on Monday: “The girls deserve better; the women’s game deserves better. More needs to be done to create an elite environment moving forward.”
Team-mate Harriet Scott added: “Throughout all the difficulties this season the players are unified. We have a dressing room that will work themselves into the ground for each other. The players [and] the women’s game deserves better.”
An outpouring of solidarity from some of the biggest names in the league followed.
“It’s a shame in 2021 we still have women’s teams competing in the top league in England having to ask for help like this,” Chelsea forward Kirby tweeted. “We should all be given the chance to perform at the highest level we can, Birmingham Women we all stand with you.” Team-mate England added: “I hope their voices will be heard.”
Williamson of Arsenal said it was “another example of the imbalance between expectations of women’s athletes and the support provided to them. Things have to change to help, not hinder them”.
Team-mate Beth Mead added: “Really sad to still be seeing this happening, fair play to players and all involved at Birmingham for speaking out… We are all behind you.”
Fellow England international and former Birmingham City player Lucy Staniforth was also compelled to share her thoughts. “What BCFC staff & players have done is remarkable given the inadequate support which they have received,” she said. “I’m curious as to how these conditions have been passed as acceptable and would urge those responsible to seriously consider the well-being of the individuals affected.”
Kerys Harrop of Tottenham Hotspur, who spent 20 years at Birmingham, added that the conditions described were part of why she departed last season. “This is heartbreaking, one of the reasons I felt I had to leave the club,” she wrote on Twitter. “Please don’t let the hard work and personal investment that people who care about the club have put into the women’s team go to waste.”
As well as current women’s footballers, shadow sports minister Alison McGovern MP, pundit and former England international Claire Rafferty, Borussia Dortmund and former men’s Birmingham player Jude Bellingham and Olympic hockey champion Kate Richardson-Walsh voiced their support online.
“For the longest time female athletes have been coerced into being “grateful” for any scrap,” Richardson-Walsh said.
“Not anymore. Female athletes have value and worth and they [sic] speaking out about it and making changes. I bloody love it, long may it continue.”