Eniola Aluko criticizes NWSL for its treatment of players’ rights

Angel City sporting director Eniola Aluko criticized the NWSL for its treatment of player rights, arguing that rules governing player movement have made players vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

The former England and Chelsea striker, 34, said the current expansion plan and trade rules give players “no autonomy” and is one of the reasons why “coaches and officials think it is okay to abuse players because they have all the power. Players have no control over their destinations or clubs due to the league setup.

Aluko, who joined the NWSL’s planned expansion team in May 2021, added to the pressure on the struggling American Women’s League during its biggest global toll.

Athleticism reported Thursday that former players have accused North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley of sexual coercion in multiple teams and leagues since 2010. This is the latest in a string of league scandals that have in evidence the powerlessness of the players in systems open to abuse.

“These rules fuel a culture of control and abuse or manipulation,” Aluko said. Athleticism.

“The rules that actually govern the movement of players are so archaic. There is no free agency. There is no autonomy for the players. It really reinforces this problem. If a player does not feel free to move around, she will have to accept where she is and she may have to accept that. [abusive] behavior because it’s her life and she can’t move.

“It’s like being in a dead end house. The only time you can go out is if you ask the owner of the house, and only if they let you go can you go. How disturbing is that?

“As a recruiter I’m really shocked at how restrictive they are. I think that feeds into the cultural element of why coaches or company officials (think) it’s okay to abuse players – because they have all the power. They still refuse to allow players to be free agents even though in 1995 the Bosman decision – which authorized the right of free movement to professional footballers – was accepted.

Earlier this month, Washington Spirit head coach Richie Burke was sacked after the NWSL opened a third-party investigation into allegations that Burke verbally abused players and used racist language, first detailed by the Washington Post in August.

Racing Louisville head coach Christy Holly was also fired. Racing executive vice president of development James O’Connor told media the dismissal was unrelated to performance on the pitch, while local WDRB news reported that sources close to the team have said players had complained about Holly helping to create a “toxic environment”. .

“What are we waiting for?” Aluko added. “It shouldn’t take a huge story like this to get the right thing done. There’s a way to push these things under the rug and pretend they’re not there.

Aluko, who played in the United States from 2009 to 2011, when the league was known as Women’s Professional Soccer, also expressed support for the first collective agreement between the players and the league, which is currently under negotiation.

Aluko understands that the salary should range from a minimum of $ 20,000 (£ 14,837) to a maximum of $ 40,000 (£ 29,674). Chelsea’s Sam Kerr is reportedly making around £ 500,000 a year in the Women’s Super League. Several NWSL players have publicly stated that they would like some form of free agency to allow them more freedom of movement and more control over where they play.

“I think the timing of this case will help them publicly exploit whatever they want,” Aluko concluded.

“But I think it’s important for someone like me, who works on the club side, to speak publicly about these things that hold back players and foster the culture that allows abuse, manipulation and emotional abuse. The players literally feel like they don’t have a choice. “I have to swallow this and accept it, because I’m going to be moved to a place I don’t want to go, or I’m actually not allowed to move anyway.”

On Wednesday, Riley answered a list of 23 questions from Athleticism about his alleged conduct with an email in which he said the majority of the allegations are “completely false”. He wrote: “I have never had sex or made sexual advances towards these players.” He said he sometimes socialized with the players and sometimes took tabs, “but I don’t take them out drinking.”

He conceded that during his career “there’s a chance I said something along the way that offended someone”.

He added: “I don’t belittle my players, comment on their weight or discuss their personal relationships.” Riley also denied hosting movie shows in his hotel room.

North Carolina Courage announced Thursday that they had fired Riley.

A statement read: “In light of today’s reports, North Carolina Courage has fired head coach Paul Riley, effective immediately, following very serious allegations of misconduct.

“Courage supports the players who have stepped forward and we congratulate them for courageously sharing their stories. North Carolina Football Club is united in its commitment to creating a safe, positive and respectful environment, not only within our club, but across the league and our great sport.

As previously stated, players and staff are encouraged to report inappropriate behavior in accordance with NWSL policy, as we prioritize efforts to maintain the highest standards of professional conduct throughout our organization.

“Sean Nahas has been named interim head coach for the remainder of the season, starting today in training.”

Meanwhile, NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said: “I was shocked and disgusted to read the new allegations reported in Athleticism this morning.

“The league, along with North Carolina Courage, reacted quickly to these new allegations, and former head coach Paul Riley was fired.

“At the same time, we are reporting these new allegations to the US Center for SafeSport for investigation. A safe and secure working environment is a top priority for the league and its collective property.

“We are implementing a new anonymous reporting process, whereby players, team and league staff can send text messages to the league, which will be investigated promptly.

“We ask our players and all those associated with the league to share their concerns with us, as we continue to make our league a safe, positive and respectful environment for our players, clubs, staff and others. our fans. ”

To learn more about the allegations against Riley, you can read Athleticism full story in the Go Deeper section below.

(Photo: MARC ATKINS / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)

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