Soccer-Ellis hails new FIFA rules around pregnancy, adoption and menstruation


Soccer Football - FIFA Football Conference - Milan, Italy - September 22, 2019 Former United States women's coach Jill Ellis speaks about winning the 2019 women's World Cup REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo/ File Photo

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - FIFA's new pay regulations to support female players and coaches through pregnancy, adoption and maternity leave are a big step for women who have struggled to juggle children and career, said former U.S. coach Jill Ellis.

Among the regulations, approved unanimously by the FIFA Council earlier this month, the minimum 14 weeks' paid maternity leave for players has been extended to coaches, plus players and coaches adopting a child will be entitled to eight weeks' paid absence when the adopted child is younger than two.

A female player or coach who is not the biological mother will be granted a minimum of eight weeks' family leave.

The new regulations will also allow women to receive full pay while absent from training or matches due to menstrual problems, plus encourage teams to allow female players more contact with family while on international duty.

"(A football career) shouldn't be exclusive of being a mum or raising a child, it should be inclusive of that," said Ellis, who coached the U.S. women's team to World Cup victories in 2015 and 2019. "If I didn't have support around me, I wouldn't have had the ability to do that and maintain my career.

"These are big steps and big strides to really normalise the life that we go through as women ... that's what we want to provide now at every level, the club level, the national team level –- the opportunity for pro players to have the chance to be mums," added Ellis, who led FIFA's Technical Study Group at the 2023 Women's World Cup.

Under the new regulations, clubs can register players outside a registration period to temporarily replace female players who are absent for pregnancy, adoption or family leave, while players returning to soccer for any of those reasons can be registered outside a registration period.

Players will be entitled to receive full pay while absent due to severe menstruation.

"When you're playing sport for a living, and in a professional environment, we have to factor in that the female menstrual cycle can also impact on your ability to deliver within your role," said Sarai Bareman, FIFA's Chief Football Women's Officer.

"So, it's important that we protect those that are affected by their menstrual cycles in a way that it doesn't put at risk their employment situation with their club and, ultimately, their ability to earn money."

Member associations will also be encouraged to allow female players to have contact with their families while on international duty, an important move for mothers, said Bareman, who can be away from their children for as long as six weeks while on World Cup duty.

"That can have a big toll on the player, mentally, but also on the child," she said. "So, encouraging the member associations to make provision or to allow for those mothers to have children with them during the camp, during the tournament, is a really important step which will support not only female players but all players in our sport."

The new updates to the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players will go into effect on Saturday.

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Toby Davis)

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