Football: Mediation settles impasse between Western Springs club, women's team over parity

Western Springs AFC has reached agreement with its women's team, after a threatened boycott over parity with the club's men's programme.

The standoff reached its climax last month, when women's coach Ryan Faithfull parted ways with the club and his players threatened to stand down, unless they were afforded the same resources as their men and rivals in women's competition.

Western Springs has the biggest membership in New Zealand football and its women reached the 2022 national league final, where they lost to Eastern Suburbs.

A boycott could have cost the club a five-figure fine and possible suspension from the local competition, but mediation has averted any further fallout.

"The club acknowledges that there have been issues, and apologise for failures in communication and understanding that contributed to the situation," said Western Springs AFC. "Everyone involved committed to the mediation process in good faith, which led to a successful resolution.

"A number of changes have been agreed to, which are all about making sure Western Springs sets the standard for not just football clubs in Auckland, but for sports clubs nationwide."

Among those changes:  

  • Premier women's team expenses have been increased to match their men
  • The club will recruit a new head of girl's and women's football, and engage an independent advisor to develop the club's programme development strategy
  • A commitment to equality, diversity and player representation on club committees

The club will act as training base for Norway during the upcoming Women's World Cup and received a share of Government funding worth $19 million to help aid its preparations for the tournament. 

The Western Springs women received heavyhitting support from the Football Ferns during the standoff.

Ryan Faithfull coaches Western Springs in national women's final
Ryan Faithfull coaches Western Springs in national women's final. Photo credit: Photosport

"We've definitely heard about it," Football Ferns defender Claudia Bunge told Newshub last month. "It's really sad to see the lack of support they're getting.

"Big ups to them, that's a really hard and uncomfortable thing to go through. 

"Leading up to a World Cup, it's not good enough. Clubs need to be doing more."

The Western Springs women are relieved to have the matter finally settled.

"Pushing for change has been tough on us as a playing group and has taken a personal toll, but we've gained strength from each other and have stayed tight as a group," they said.

"We are really proud of what we have achieved and hope that others in similar situations can take heart from our situation. We hope that WSAFC can lead the way for other clubs to ensure equity and fairness, and a culture that supports and grows women's teams."