Victory comes with legal support from FIFPRO
This week, Icelandic footballer Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir won a landmark case against her former club Olympique Lyonnais for failing to pay her full salary during pregnancy.
The ruling saw Bjork Gunnarsdottir, who won the Champions League twice at Lyon, become the first player to win a claim against a club through FIFA’s Maternity Regulations, which were introduced after pressure from FIFPRO.
The ruling stipulated that Lyon must pay unpaid salary of over €82,000.
Since January 2021, FIFA’s Maternity Regulations rule that female players are entitled to be paid at a 100% during their pregnancy and until the start of their maternity leave, which is of a minimum of 14 weeks at a minimum of two-thirds of their salary. However, whilst at Lyon, the club failed to pay Bjork Gunnardottir’s salary before she started her maternity leave.
“This is about my rights as a worker, as a woman and as a human being,” said the midfielder, who now plays for Italian giants Juventus. “The victory felt bigger than me. It felt like a guarantee of financial security for all players who want to have a child during their career. That it’s not a ‘maybe,’ or an unknown.”
Bjork Gunnarsdottir said FIFPRO was quick to intervene to make the club do the right thing.
Jonas Baer-Hoffman, General Secretary of FIFPRO said, “this is not just a win for Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir and her family, but for all footballers around the world. This is a historic precedent that shows that players individually and collectively create change.
Through the World Players Association’s Roar Room for Gender Equity and Decent Work in Sport, leaders from player associations around the world have highlighted the need for greater support for players who are mothers or hoping to become mothers as one of the key challenges and opportunities for growth in women’s sport. In a statement, the World Players Association congratulated Bjork Gunnarsdottir, saying “this shows that with effective protocols in place and player activism, we can improve sport for everyone. Athletes are humans first and maternity leave is absolutely critical in preventing discrimination and to protect women’s right to work.”