England defender Lucy Bronze said the Lionesses are feeling “empowered” ahead of their World Cup opener after releasing a statement addressing the players’ ongoing row with the Football Association (FA) over bonus payments and other commercial concerns.
In a message from the team posted on social media by captain Millie Bright, the Lionesses said they were “disappointed that a resolution has still not been achieved” but would “pause discussions, with full intentions of revisiting them following the tournament”, which begins for England on Saturday against Haiti in Brisbane.
Bronze, speaking at England’s team hotel on Wednesday, was adamant that the decision to go public about the situation was motivated not just by personal financial benefits but wider principles, and maintained she is “one hundred per cent confident that we will not be distracted by this”.
Bronze said: “I think the players are feeling very empowered. I think it’s the first time as a player group we’ve actually ever sent the message out ourselves, that we’ve collectively done together and set our sights on. So I think in that respect it’s been a very empowered player group last night and this morning and these past few weeks.
“I feel like we felt it was important that we sent the message out, because there has been some talks (and) we want to show that we’re focused for the World Cup, that is our main focus.
“It’s super sad that we have these issues. I think that again, this was something that we spoke about as an England group. We’re not only doing this for ourselves, we’re doing it so that we can set a standard.”
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The Lionesses join players from teams including France, Spain, Jamaica, Nigeria, Canada and co-hosts Australia who have in recent months expressed concerns over issues ranging from pay to personnel in their own federations and beyond.
Bronze continued: “It’s unfortunate that it has come before the World Cup, but at the same time, it’s because the World Cup gives us the big stage. It’s when people want to listen to us, it’s when things really matter.
“And that’s why so many teams now are coming out and speaking about it, because it’s the only moment that they get the stage or the opportunity to speak out, which is unfortunate.”
For the first time in a Women’s World Cup, players will be guaranteed performance-related remuneration directly from FIFA, with amounts increasing the deeper teams go in the tournament.
In addition, the Lionesses were also understood to be frustrated by a lack of clarity over what their cut from any commercial deals done by the FA linked to the team will be, as well as the restrictions around their personal sponsorships.
The PA news agency has contacted the FA for comment.
Bronze said the Lionesses benefit from a generally amiable relationship with the FA that leaves the squad feeling optimistic that they can reach an agreement without taking more dramatic steps, like threatening to boycott their Nations League fixtures, set to follow the World Cup in September.
She said: “I don’t think we made any threats as players, I think we’re quite well spoken. And we know how to kind of stand our ground – I can’t say the conversations ever got to be that heated.”
From your Lionesses x pic.twitter.com/TMvPaLXwHp
— Millie Bright (@Mdawg1bright) July 18, 2023
At the same time, Bronze suggested she and her team-mates deserved more, particularly after their victory at last summer’s Euros led to a paradigm shift for women and girls’ football in England, from a 173 per cent uptick in Women’s Super League attendance to a surge in participation at the grassroots level.
She added: “There’s constantly another level and another step you can take. Whether that’s commercially – or on or off the pitch. Whether that’s performance-based, it’s being rewarded for the things you have done.
“We are the European Champions. We have changed the game massively in England, so we want everything to fall in line. If we are going to do well on the pitch, then you would expect things to follow.”