Fifa president Gianni Infantino Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Fifa, the world governing body for football, has promised to introduce new maternity rules in a bid to further strengthen the protections given to female footballers.

Following a meeting of the world governing body late on Thursday, Fifa said it was bringing in new “global minimum standards” for women’s football. These “landmark reforms” have been backed by the Fifa Football Stakeholders Committee and will now be put before the Fifa Council for final approval sometime next month.

The new rules include mandatory maternity leave of at least 14 weeks and a minimum of two thirds of contracted salary. When players return to their clubs, it will be the duty of the clubs to ensure the players are fully reintegrated and provided with medical and physical support.

Fifa also plans to help clubs by letting them register a player outside of a transfer window as a temporary replacement during a maternity leave.

“No female player should ever suffer a disadvantage as a result of becoming pregnant, thus securing greater employment protection for women in football,” Fifa President Gianni Infantino said. “Following the recent phenomenal growth and the unprecedented success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France last year, women’s football is now entering its next stage of development. It follows that we also have to adopt a regulatory framework that is appropriate and suitable to the needs of the women’s game.”

The Fifa Football Stakeholders Committee also approved stronger rules for football coaches and for club, league and player representatives, as well as member associations and confederations. These establish minimum standards for contracts and aim to provide greater clarity on the content of employment agreements.

“It will be our hope to see that the rules will lead to contractual stability, greater transparency and ensuring that coaches always get paid on time,” Infantino said.

The move follows a similar approach to player contracts, with these rules also needing to be approved by the 37-member Fifa Council next month.

The Fifa Council consists of 37 members, including the President who is elected by the Fifa Congress, eight vice-presidents and 28 other members elected by the member associations — each for a term of four years.

“Fifa has never taken care of them (coaches) for the last 120 years,” Infantino said, predicting the new rules would benefit coaches who work internationally. The drafted rules aim to “protect contractual stability, achieve greater transparency and make sure that coaches also get paid on time,” Fifa insisted.

Although Fifa’s judicial bodies have not been presented with contract disputes over maternity rights, the new rules follow International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards on compensating maternity leave with at least eight weeks of the 14-week minimum maternity leave used after the player gives birth.

The rules, created with help from world players’ union FIFPRO, are expected to be approved by the FIFA Council next month and will take effect from January 1, 2021.