Australia to give Women’s World Cup stars the freedom of self-expression

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

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

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

    Football Australia is in talks with FIFA to avoid similar issues this time around, Johnson said, and expects players to actively support the various causes.

    “What you’re going to see from Matilda is not only great performances on the pitch, but they’ll earn some points from it,” he told Sky Sports.

    “We work with FIFA [and] we will make sure that some exceptions to the rules are included in the competition rules so that players can freely express their thoughts.

    “Once this is agreed, the players can express their opinion on certain issues, especially LGBTQI issues, which Matilda has on the tip of her tongue.

    “Then they can get back into football and do their job on the pitch.

    “It could be an armband, it could be a national flag. We didn’t go into details. We are optimistic, we will end up where both we and the players are happy.”

    Johnson’s comments come after talks between FIFA and Visit Saudi to sponsor the final drew criticism from prominent players.

    “We were not happy with how it ended,” Johnson added. “We were also not happy with what we thought the result should have been.

    “It’s not just us [Football Australia], this is the government, and we also talked to the players. In our opinion, this did not correspond to the vision of the tournament.

    “We have taken a principled position. Not everyone liked it, but sometimes leaders have to do it. We’ve spent a lot of time listening to our players, trying to figure out what’s important to them.

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

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