Birmingham City board address women’s team complaints after ‘productive’ talks 

Birmingham City’s board have held “positive discussions” with their women’s team this week, after Telegraph Sport revealed details of a formal letter of complaint made by the players about their working conditions.

The club have announced that they will play their home matches at St Andrew’s, the home of their men’s Championship side, next season if they avoid relegation from the Women’s Super League this term, and they are close to securing a “long-term home” for the women’s side from 2022-23 onwards.

That will mark a significant step following a season which has seen their current home, shared with non-league men’s side Solihull Moors, plagued by postponements because of waterlogged or frozen pitches, with the FA moving three of their matches to St George’s Park when the Solihull pitch was understood to have failed a drainage test.

However, the players’ letter — which was signed by the entire squad — had also raised numerous other grievances, including concerns about access to training facilities, medical provisions and a lack of hotels for away games, as well as wages.

In a lengthy, three-page statement issued on Thursday afternoon, Birmingham defended their provisions for the women’s team, but said: “The efforts of the players have started an open dialogue between the board and the women’s squad to provide clarity on these issues.”

It is understood the players and the board met on Tuesday, with manager Carla Ward working as a liaison between both parties to seek positive resolutions, and multiple sources have said that those talks were productive.

Ward, whose squad consisted of just eight senior players when she took over last August but reached the Women’s FA Cup semi-finals, added: “We are working together to move forward and will remain in communication with the board to resolve matters internally.”

Huge numbers of players from other clubs showed their support for the Birmingham players on social media this week, including England stars Fran Kirby, Leah Williamson and Beth Mead.

The club added: “We are keen to emphasise that the club remains committed to providing support for our women’s team. We will further the conversation internally in a bid to address players’ concerns, the details of which will remain private.

“Whilst the club has supported the women’s set-up with large investment over recent years, this is incomparable to some of the budgets that exist in the league today. The women’s football landscape has changed drastically with more investment and resources required year-on-year.

“Some of the issues raised relate to the size of our facilities in addition to our staffing levels. There are still challenges to overcome in accommodating all of our teams in one location, but we will continue to work towards finding the best possible solution for all parties.”

Sources in the squad had told Telegraph Sport they were unhappy with the size of their physio treatment room, which is housed in a portakabin. The club said: “Many of our buildings at our Wast Hills training facility are semi-permanent structures as they were viewed as the appropriate choice when we upgraded our infrastructure in the summer of 2019.

“In response to the widely reported medical room, this is used as a multi-functional space, allowing for assessment, treatment and rehabilitation. Whilst we would like to have a larger, more purpose-built facility, the club are not funded to the same extent as some of our WSL competitors.

“We have a partnership in place, which is exclusive to our women’s team, with a local hotel gym that gives the players access to fantastic facilities, including a swimming pool and private area. COVID-19 restrictions have forced gym facilities to close, but an appropriate solution is in place with equipment being moved into our large, multifunctional dome to facilitate these sessions.”

With four games remaining, Birmingham are ninth in the WSL, three points and three places clear of the relegation zone.

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