A “Historic agreement”. On March 15, at the time of presenting the signature of the sectoral collective agreement which must come into force in July 2021 to organize and guarantee the rights of their players, the representatives of the French handball were not little proud to display their determination as pioneers. The text is indeed the first of its kind in the world of French women’s professional sport, the result of long negotiations between the union of professional clubs, the players’ association and the group of coaches and training professionals.
The advances are not small. More than 150 handball players in 14 elite clubs will see their salary maintained in the event of pregnancy or long injury for a year (against three months until then). They will benefit from the extension of their paid leave which is reduced to seven weeks, like those of men, and will benefit from training opportunities for their retraining.
On the salary side, the agreement sets the minimum salary at € 1,650 gross per month. A rather modest floor, barely above the current minimum (€ 1,561) provided for by the national collective agreement for sport. Taking into account the difficulties related to the health context, it is however called upon to evolve.
Handball as a scout
“All of this is the result of a long process that began in 2018 and demanded by the development of women’s handball., welcomes Sabrina Ciavatti, ex-international and vice-president of the Association of Professional Handball Players. With more and more structured clubs, titles also won by the French team and increased media coverage, we are reaching the same stage as men’s rugby at the time of its transition to professionalism in the mid-1990s. precise legal framework on the conditions for exercising our profession. “
Can handball inspire other sports? All eyes are obviously on football. Except that, contrary to popular belief, if the discipline plays ambassadors and is not for nothing in the evolution of mentalities around women’s sport, it is less structured than handball, especially economically.
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“I have to repeat it often: we are not yet professional, some of our first division teams still play on synthetic turf and not all club finances are assured., insists Brigitte Henriques, vice-president of the French Football Federation. We must change the status of the players, go beyond the 150 or so champions who now benefit from a federal contract. We are going to define a new roadmap to reach a milestone, perhaps within two or three years. “
Secure practices as much as possible
Basketball could suddenly be the best place to catch the ball on the jump. “We are not in a race, but evolution is essential, underlines Yannick Souvré, president of the National Basketball League, former captain of the Bleues in the 1990s. At the time, I had launched the association of players, which was not really a union, but through which I could clearly see that the players, and me the first, lived basketball as a passion rather than a profession. . Things are different today. The players are more supervised and aware from the start of their career. A new status is needed to make it as secure as possible. “
The basketball world has been working on it since September 2018. The dialogue between all the partners has had its ups and downs, but it must be relaunched on Monday, April 19. “For ten years, a big effort has been made to structure the clubs, which are much more solid today. Our 12 elite clubs have a turnover of 24.5 million euros and employ 115 players with an average annual gross salary of 77,000 euros., details Marie-Laure Lafargue, president of the Basket Landes club and new number 2 in the League to maneuver on social issues. We are ripe for a sectoral agreement for our women, hopefully by the end of 2021. “
A path that rugby also plans to take, even if no deadline is set. President of the Provale union, Robins Tchale-Watchou would be in favor of an acceleration of the discussions, and to do this, not to focus on the economic question: “The important thing is to allow the players to fully live their practice, on and off the field, and to deal in particular with questions of maternity, insurance coverage and not to take the problem on the only side of remuneration. In order not to wait for economic development which can take a long time, we could move forward on these questions, send a strong sign for practitioners, and then change things in terms of salaries. A convention is never set in stone. “
Fifa marks the blow on motherhood
Announced in November 2020, a new regulation imposed by the International Football Federation (Fifa) on its 211 member countries entered into force in January 2021. It obliges clubs that play internationally to offer their players maternity leave of ‘at least fourteen weeks (including eight after birth) paid at least two-thirds of their contractual salary, as well as a ban on dismissal. The observation is indeed clear: rare are the players who dare to become pregnant during their career. With this measure, Fifa hopes to help change the situation.