Matildas player Ashleigh Sykes hopes strike with FFA speeds up pay talks

Matildas and Canberra United forward Ashleigh Sykes says some players may be forced to choose between full time employment and representing their country if their wage demands aren't met. 

The Matildas withdrew from a training camp and will boycott two games in the US after they felt they were "disrespected" by Football Federation Australia during negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement on Tuesday. 

Canberra United duo Ashleigh Sykes and Michelle Heyman have been caught up in the Matildas' pay dispute with the FFA.
Canberra United duo Ashleigh Sykes and Michelle Heyman have been caught up in the Matildas' pay dispute with the FFA. Photo: Getty Images

Sykes played in her first World Cup earlier this year and said the players are desperate for the furore to be resolved as soon as possible so they can concentrate on football.

The 24-year-old quit her job at the Lyneham post office at the start of this year to focus on the Matildas World Cup campaign in Canada, where they became the first Australia senior team to make the quarter finals. 

The Matildas' previous agreement finished at the end of June, and the players haven't been paid for two months. 

Asked if players were considering whether to work full-time or play, Sykes said: "Yeah I think so, definitely.


"Everybody wants to play for Australia but they're not willing to move everything [in their lives] to do that. 

"It does become difficult because I haven't had any income since the World Cup, I can't get a job in the time between Matildas commitments. 

"It becomes a choice, whether you want to keep pushing through and representing your country, or whether you want to support yourself. 

"We want to work toward more of a full-time work payment, nothing exorbitant. 

"People keep making the observation the women's game doesn't bring much revenue in, and therefore we shouldn't be looking for more money. 

"We believe if we're expected to commit to almost a full-time training load and aren't able to work to support ourselves, then improved conditions so we can [support ourselves] would be much appreciated.

"We want our negotiations done as quickly as possible so we can concentrate on Olympic preparation and the US Tour."

The Matildas also want to negotiate improved travel conditions to be on par with the Socceroos. 

Sykes confirmed the Matildas still fly in economy class on long trips, while the men's team travel in business class. 

Basketball Australia re-wrote its travel policy after a similar situation was exposed when their players travelled to the 2012 London Olympics, and Opals star Lauren Jackson has backed the Matildas stance.

"We're willing to be flexible about [the travel policy]," Sykes said.  

"If we're just travelling in Australia and it's not a long distance then it's fine to be in economy, we're not expecting the FFA to fork out huge amounts of money for us to be in business class from Canberra to Sydney. 

"It's not just how we travel, it's timing. There was a case this year where we went from Italy to Austria and played a game the next day, got on a plane to Scotland that night and played a game there the next day as well. 

"To perform at a high level, we'd like to recover and travel a bit better."

Another point of contention for the players is the requirement to play in the domestic W-League competition to be eligible for Matildas selection, something the players feel is restricting their development. 

"The ideal situation for most people would be being able to play overseas and improve themselves for the national team," Sykes said. 

"If the FFA persists in us playing in the W-League, which has been compulsory in the past, then part of the negotiations we're looking forward to is getting minimum work conditions in the W-League.

"The salary cap is a big thing, but also making sure there's home grounds with a good playing surface and the facilities are of a reasonable standard. 

"We believe we can contribute to the game marketing-wise and getting paid more is committing to being available for that."

Sykes is hopeful the stand-off is resolved before the W-League kicks off on October 18, removing any chance the league would be affected. 

"I really hope it is resolved well before then, it starts affecting a big group of people and I don't want the W-League to suffer as a result," she said. 

"By taking a stand, we're hoping to get things moving quickly so we can get onto playing football."