60% felt mental-health support was insufficient – FIFPRO findings of Women’s World Cup player survey

(Keith McInnes/SPP)

FIFPRO have released results of a survey completed by 260 participating players in this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Among the key findings was that 22% did not have an electrocardiogram (to check heart rhythm and electrical activity) before the tournament, with 10% not given a pre-tournament medical examination – both of which are part of FIFA tournament regulations.

In addition:

  • 60% of players say that mental-health support was insufficient.
  • 53% felt they did not have enough rest before their first World Cup game.
  • 60% felt they were not given enough rest after the tournament – 86% had less than two weeks before rejoining their club, described by one player as ‘mentally exhausting.’
  • One in five of the players surveyed has a second job away from their playing career, with one in three earning less than $30k a year (approx. £23.7k) from football.
  • While 94% of players flew business class to the World Cup, this dropped to 80% for the return flight after the tournament.
  • One player called for an investigation into the qualification of technical staff brought by their federation.

FIFPRO’s head of strategy and research for women’s football, Dr Alex Culvin, said: “Anything below 100% when it comes to access to an ECG or undertaking a pre-tournament medical is not acceptable. All players need to complete these important checks before they compete, and the regulations need to be applied and adhered to in full.”

Participating players came from 26 of the tournament’s 32 competing national teams, with FIFPRO explaining the obstacles in access to some of the players from nations in which they do not have a member union.

She Kicks was part of a media call this week to discuss the findings of the survey.


On the alarming number of players who were not given the necessary medical checks before the tournament, Dr Alex Culvin added: “Whilst the ECG and medical stats were improved for the World Cup players, in comparison to the World Cup qualification process, it was 54% of players who didn’t receive a medical, and 70% of those players (in the qualifying phase) didn’t receive an ECG. So there’s a clear acknowledgment of the ‘FIFA effect’ of when FIFA regulate something, that there are improvements made in those very critical health-and-safety areas for players.

“Once FIFA set out the regulation, it’s then up to the federations to actually then go and do the task and make sure that they are meeting the required regulations.”


On the subject of overload in players’ schedules, Sarah Gregorius, FIFPRO’s director of global policy and strategic relations for women’s football, said: “Players may not know the adequate rest, recovery and retraining periods themselves – it’s our job to campaign for that on their behalf.”

“One of the reasons we asked about players’ rest and recovery was to help shape future (FIFA International) Match Calendar discussions. We have very clear pillars and principles for what the Match Calendar should provide to players and the industry, but because of the particularities around this year’s World Cup being so far away for some of the players, it occurring later in the summer, so to speak, it was really important that we analysed how this affected players that participated.

FIFA Womens World Cup 2023 - Netherlands v South Africa - Sydney Football Stadium
(Daniela Porcelli / SPP)

“A lot of you will remember how polarising some of the conversations were prior to the World Cup around how long players should have between their club season ending and heading into the national team… and a lot of that conversation was being held around the players, so we wanted to get the information from the players about how this particular situation affected it so we could mitigate it in the future. And the way to mitigate it is through the Match Calendar discussions, so we are eagerly awaiting that consultation process so that we can plug this information into that and make sure that the timing of the tournaments works best for the players, both coming in and out of the competition.

“There certainly wasn’t enough time at the end of this year’s World Cup for adequate rest to take place and retraining to get ready for some of the traditional European seasons, for example. The calendar is becoming more and more congested, so we need to make sure that every single parameter, including the timing of the tournaments, is done in a way that helps players get there in the best possible shape, and also get back to their day-to-day club environments in the best possible shape to perform there as well.”


On the results regarding mental-health support, Dr Alex Culvin said: “It was quite alarming for us to see that statistic, that 60% of players felt that mental-health support was insufficient. The delegation size (for each team) was expanded from 35 to 50, and with that additional 15 people, you would expect that federations would have some mental-health support for players.

“Mental health becomes a big priority (in the next round of discussions) if 60% of players said it was insufficient.”

Sarah Gregorius added: “I think the next round of discussions needs to be around not just the quantity of staff but the quality of staff, and making sure that staff are being placed in the environment to help better the performance of the players… The players are telling us that a mental-wellbeing professional at least needs to be in the environment, because that’s an area of concern.”


With some players calling into question the level of qualification of some staff members in their team’s delegation, Dr Alex Culvin said: “There’s a real quality-control issue in women’s football – it’s not just about having a person, it’s about having a person who’s qualified, who is familiar and comfortable working with high-performance athletes, but also gender-specific understanding of the environment of being an international player, a women’s player playing in a World Cup.”

The final part of the discussion centred upon players receiving their participation fees for the tournament. An agreement before the World Cup was for each player to receive at least $30,000 from taking part in the competition.

It was confirmed on this call that some are still waiting for payment, but Gregorius stressed: “We are critical of FIFA when we need to be, but on this one, they’ve been very open in wanting information from us about who has and hasn’t received the money… but obviously, the further we get away from the tournament, the patience will run out. If it’s a case of a particular member association maybe not honouring the agreement and the spirit of it, either not paying the players what they’re entitled to or slowing it down unnecessarily, I think it will be a situation where they feel the full force of FIFA and FIFPRO, and the unions, in that regard.

“What’s also really important to point out is a lot of players have been paid, and we’re getting a lot of feedback on how life-changing some of this is for them as well.”

Gregorius highlighted that the $30k figures quoted are gross amounts, explaining that international taxation (specifically, Australia) has been a factor in the delay of some players’ payments. She commented: “I’m curious as to whether or not we’ll ever see a single-country host for a World Cup again… I think it has to be a consideration, particularly when there are such differences in the way that things like prize money or income would be taxed.

“In the past, I don’t think it’s been a consideration…I think a country withholding that much tax was never really considered as part of it. I suppose now we’ve set a new norm.

“I think we may have to revisit that one once we know where this (next) Women’s World Cup is going.”


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