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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Rachel Steinberg

High Commissioner believes Lionesses have vital role in fight for women’s rights

PA Wire

British High Commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell believes England’s Lionesses have a vital role to play in the diplomatic mission of fighting for the rights of women and girls around the world.

England players on Tuesday released a collective statement, posted on Twitter by captain Millie Bright, outlining their “disappointment” in not reaching an agreement with the Football Association over performance bonus payments and commercial structures ahead of their World Cup opener against Haiti in Brisbane.

That fight, they said, was driven not solely by personal gain but by “a strong sense of responsibility to grow the game” globally – a sentiment reiterated by numerous players over the last few days in the Queensland capital, where defender Lucy Bronze explained “we’re not only doing this for ourselves, we’re doing it so that we can set a standard.”

Asked how she felt about the Lionesses’ advocacy, Treadell told the PA news agency: “I’m hugely proud. If you have a platform you should use it for global good.

“I think the Lionesses are doing just that. They are personalities, they have a profile, it’s part of a much broader global agenda of closing the gender pay gap. [In many professions] women are still behind the men.

“We must all work together to say ‘that is wrong’. If we’re doing the same job we should have equal pay. So if they voice that, if we voice that it’s about pushing that and getting people to say actually, that is about equality, that is about fairness.

“Football is played on every continent. The English Premier League, the Women’s Super League in the UK, has a global audience. It’s a great soft power asset. More people watch British football than any other nation’s football.

They are personalities, they have a profile, it's part of a much broader global agenda of closing the gender pay gap
— Vicki Treadell

“So for us they are amazing brand ambassadors entering every room.”

This is not the first time the Lionesses have used their platform politically. Days after lifting the Euro 2022 trophy, they collectively released a letter to then-Conservative leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss with a host of demands including a school football provision for girls identical to that offered to boys.

Their campaign paid off in March when the government responded with a new package of measures designed to grant equal access to all school sport, backed by over £600 million in funding over the next two academic years.

According to last year’s FIFA benchmarking report on women’s leagues and clubs, the average salary in the women’s game worldwide is just USD 14,000 (£11,000).

And at international level, players from World Cup nations including France, Spain, Jamaica, Canada, South Africa and Zambia have all called out or taken action over issues ranging from playing and training conditions to personnel, while this is the first World Cup the United States will play following their landmark legal battle for equal pay.

An increased prize pot of 110 million US dollars (£84.2m) for this World Cup came after an open letter to FIFA signed by 150 players from 25 national teams called for equal conditions and a guarantee that at least 30 per cent of prize money would be allocated to players.

That pot is more than three times that of the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, but still pales in comparison to the 440 million USD (£342m) doled out after the 2022 men’s edition in Qatar, though FIFA has outlined ambitions for parity by the next World Cups.

Bright will for England’s second match wear an armband advocating for Indigenous People, a collective choice she said was “massively important to us as a team” after meeting members of the community in Australia.

Treadell lauded that decision, adding: “It’s really important cultural understanding and awareness. The wonderful thing is that it’s the women of those First Nations who have been at the forefront of these welcomes.

“Women to women, gender empowerment, inspiring young girls of whatever race, religion, ethnicity, that there is potential that they can realise their dreams.

“And of course the Lionesses are role models about realising your dreams.”

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