Australia planning to allow Women’s World Cup stars to ‘express themselves in a free way’


Players at the Women’s World Cup should be allowed to show support for social causes, believes Football Australia chief executive James Johnson.

Australia and New Zealand will host this year’s final after the men’s tournament in Qatar in 2022.

The build-up to the event was dominated by discussion of human rights issues surrounding the host country, and players were banned from wearing OneLove armbands supporting LGBTQ+ rights.

Football Australia is in talks with FIFA to avoid similar problems this time around, Johnson revealed, and expects players to be vocal in their support of various causes.

“What you’re going to see from the Matildas is not just great performances on the pitch, but they’re going to get some points off it,” he told Sky Sports.

“We are working with FIFA [and] we will make sure that we put some exceptions to the rules in the competition rules so that the players can express themselves freely.

“Once this is agreed, the players can have their say on certain issues, particularly LGBTQI issues, that are on the Matildas’ tongue.

“Then they can go back to football and do their job on the pitch.

“It could be an armband, it could be a native flag. We haven’t gotten into the specifics. We’re optimistic that we’ll land in a place that we’re happy with and the players are happy with.”

Johnson’s comments come after talks between FIFA and Visit Saudi over sponsorship of the final drew criticism from high-profile players.

“We weren’t happy with how it went,” Johnson added. “We weren’t even happy with what we thought the result would be.

“It’s not just us [Football Australia], it’s the government and we’ve spoken to the players as well. From our perspective, it wasn’t in line with the vision of the tournament.

“We took a principled stand. It wasn’t popular with everyone, but that’s what leaders have to do sometimes. We spent a lot of time listening to our players to try to understand what was important to them.”

“The Matildas support a lot of social issues and we need to support our players. When we have to push FIFA issues, we do it for our players.”

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