England’s Lionesses have condemned the “unacceptable” situation at Birmingham Women after players at the club raised a series of complaints with the board.
The Football Association has opened an investigation after City’s squad sent a letter to the club’s hierarchy highlighting a lack of support for them compared to that given to the men’s team.
The complaints have been reported to include players earning “less than the minimum wage” and delays over treatment for injured players, while a lack of access to the training-ground gym, changing rooms and travel arrangements for away fixtures were other issues raised.
Manchester City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck, on international duty with England Women, said: “Now in the women’s game we are at a level where that is totally not acceptable at all.
“I am not close enough to Birmingham to know the ins and outs but from what I can see and looking in from outside, that is not good enough.
“Personally I count myself really fortunate I am at a club in Man City where everything is top level and the equality throughout the building is top drawer and especially coming into an England camp, we have the same luxuries of facilities so we’re really lucky.
“But the way the league is going now and the steps it is making to improve, we all need to be at a level that can help the girls perform to the best of their ability.
“If they can be provided with better facilities, it will not only help the growth of the game but the growth of the individuals to thrive in that environment. It is unacceptable and hopefully it will get resolved.”
Birmingham have reportedly also complained about the size of their squad and said some players have played this season when not fully fit.
The team were forced to withdraw from a Women’s Super League fixture at Tottenham in January due to a lack of fit players, while some home games have been postponed due to the poor playing surface at their Damson Park ground.
The FA said: “We are aware of the letter submitted by the players of Birmingham City to the club’s board.
“We are working with the women’s club and are supporting them to ensure they are able to complete their remaining fixtures this season.
“We will be looking into some of the issues raised by the players to ensure all license criteria is being met by the club.”
Birmingham City were unavailable for comment when contacted by the PA news agency, but said in a statement published by the Daily Telegraph that they had one of the lowest budgets in the league.
“Covid has only compounded this,” the club said. “This certainly makes it difficult to compete, but we’re doing our best on and off the pitch in what is a very difficult time for professional football.”
Birmingham added: “We are lucky to be based in the middle of the country where we can easily make journeys to our games without the need to stay overnight, whilst still being able to prepare our team in the best way possible to compete.”
Harriet Scott, a defender at Birmingham, insisted on Twitter that through adversity the squad had remained united.
Former City men’s player Jude Bellingham retweeted Scott’s message, while England players Fran Kirby and Leah Williamson were among those to send messages of support.
Lionesses defender Lotte Wubben-Moy, Williamson’s team-mate at Arsenal, also expressed her disappointment during this week’s international camp.
“While there is so much progress happening, as we can see there are still issues coming up and I think it is important we as a whole in the women’s football community stick together,” Wubben-Moy said.
“Without a doubt do I empathise. What they are going through is something I cannot comment on because I am not a Birmingham City player, but the only comment I can make is I respect them for speaking out.
“I think it is an important part of their development as a club that their voices are heard and I hope the board of directors take into account what they are saying.”
Birmingham are ninth in the WSL table, three points above the relegation zone with four games to play.
Chelsea centre-back Millie Bright, who recently helped her side reach the Champions League semi-finals, admitted it showed more work was required at all levels of the women’s game.
She added: “I am gutted that the players are having to experience what they are and hopefully something is going to change moving forwards.
“Overall in the women’s game we still need to make improvements like this and it shows where the game needs to get to.”