Women basketball players seek to change the sporting landscape and pave the way for future female athletes

Friday 6 July 2018

This week in Brussels, the World Players and UNI Europa Sport, the World Players’ European Branch, held an important meeting to consolidate a European Basketball Alliance and to help break down the barriers that many female basketball players face.

In the framework of the European Commission financed project “European Social Dialogue targeted initiative: strengthening social dialogue in the professional basketball sector”, the meeting brought together eight top female basketball players all in various stages of their career.

Spearheaded by UNI Europa Sport Director, Amel Djemail, the players Melissa Diawak, Maud Medenou and Pauline Lithard from France, were joined by Kathrin Ress and Martina Fassina from Italy, Olympic medalist Lucila Pascua Suárez from Spain and Gülşah Akkaya from Turkey and supported by Belgian female players present via video conference. UNI Europa/World Player’s affiliated organisation and associated organisation to the project, EU Athletes, was also present, represented by its General Secretary, Paulina Tomczyk.

All of the women detailed their concerns with the basketball sector, and the sports industry as a whole, for female athletes. With many athletes not recognised as “professional”, key employment issues such as improper contracts, lack of a retirement system and lack of paid holidays are commonplace. The athletes also detailed the discrimination they face for being women in the sports industry as many female basketball players have had to end their career to have children as there are no maternity provisions. This pushes female athletes into making the unfair choice between a career and a family.

“We are working people, we don’t just play for fun, it’s our job. We need the rights and respect that everyone else has.” Kathrin Ress, Italian professional basketball player

UNI Europa Sport/World Players is supporting female athletes through this project, which will expand over 18 months. Amel Djemail, who has worked in this sector for seven years, stated that “the issues that have been discussed today as not uncommon for female athletes. However, there is a common solution. Collective bargaining agreements, facilitated by UNI Europa, could give female athletes the professional and social security that they demand and deserve.”

“With the consolidation of a European Basketball Alliance, we are putting down the foundations for future generations of female athletes to have secure, fair and rewarding careers. Therefore athletes, who are workers too, will no more have to choose between their private life and their career,” Djemail concluded.

Watch the video below for an insight into the discussions.


You can consult World Players gender equality principles here. For more information, please contact amel.djemail@uniglobalunion.org