sport

Contract boost for England women

England's women players could get their new central contracts signed before they head off to their winter training camp in La Manga.

Negotiations had reached an impasse, with the Football Association refusing to budge on their 18,000-a-year offer to Hope Powell's squad, leading to the Professional Footballers' Association to tell their members not to sign.

It meant England's players went unpaid in December.

However, with PFA chief Gordon Taylor turning up the heat earlier on Wednesday, branding the offer "embarrassing", it seems minds have been focussed.

And, whilst some negotiation still remains, it is understood talks on Wednesday afternoon between the PFA and the FA's head of national game, Kelly Simmons, were "positive" and there is a chance the deal could be concluded before the La Manga trip.

At the start of a year which includes Euro 2013 in Sweden in July it would represent a welcome step forward for the women's game, which Taylor insisted should never have been placed in such an awkward position in the first place.

"I am surprised the FA have not been more responsive to the girls' reasonable demands," he said.

"In some ways, they have done a lot for the women's game, which now has increased TV coverage and obviously the facility at St George's Park is available for both male and female players.

"But they are offering to move these central contracts up from 16,000, which has been the figure since 2009, to 18,000.

"Come on. That figure is embarrassing. Top Premier League players are earning more in a day."

There is never going to be anything like an equitable salary distribution between male and female football, with the latter still attracting attendances measured in the hundreds for many Women's Super League games.

However, as Taylor noted, the Olympics were a phenomenal success, with 70,584 at Wembley for Team GB's win over Brazil, more than the men got for their victory over Uruguay in Cardiff the following day.

There can be little doubt either that, unlike with the men, the international game is the pinnacle of the women's game as well as the main vehicle for increased interest and participation.

And Taylor would like to see that reflected in the earning power of England's players.

"Basically, these girls are having to commit themselves to England on a full-time basis," he said.

"One player is training to be a lawyer and instead of two years to qualify, it is going to take four.

"When you consider the progress the women's game has made in recent years - and in these days of equality - it is not doing any of us any credit that negotiations have reached an impasse over sums like this."