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Sara Gama: "This collective bargaining agreement gives us more security"

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Sara Gama Juventus Imago1012079334h
Sara Gama Imago1012079331h

Sara Gama

Sara Gama is the captain of Italy and Juventus, and the vice president of Italian player union AIC. The 33-year-old was involved with the realisation of the collective bargaining agreement for players in Serie A Femminile, which will come into effect this season.

Since 1 July, our women’s league is officially a professional football league. This was already announced two years ago and, as a union, we also wanted to create a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for women’s players.

However, we first had to implement the new articles about women’s football in the regulations of the Italian Football Federation and introduce the minimum salary standard.

It took a great deal of time and left us with just two months to agree on a CBA. But we succeeded because all stakeholders understood the importance of finalising the CBA before the historic date of 1 July.

The agreement is quite good. We are happy. We can now call ourselves workers.

The CBA arranges some things that are very important for footballers. It includes a standard player’s contract, insurance, maternity, health care, time of rest, and a career fund. The deal contains the same arrangements as the men’s collective agreement with the peculiarity of our sector. We wanted the same standard for all players.

We consulted FIFPRO for advice and for insights into other countries’ CBAs. This was very helpful.

More on collective bargaining agreements

One very important topic is the minimum salary. We tried to find the most appropriate solution taking into account the status of the women’s game, and so we chose the minimum salary of the men’s third division [Serie C], which is a good starting point.

The CBA gives us more security. We all make sacrifices to play. Years ago, I had team-mates in the national team who had to make a difficult decision: ‘If I continue playing then this means I do not have a job’. If you wanted to play football, you put your future at risk because you did not have a professional contract as a worker. I saw players who were 25-years-old quit the national team to avoid that risk.

That has changed now. We have arrangements for retirement, insurance and more. These things make your life safer and give you the opportunity to play. Of course, it is important to continue studying and preparing for a second life, this doesn’t change with professionalism, and goes for women as well as men.

Things had already improved gradually since 2015 after the Italian federation (FIGC) introduced some very important rules and the bigger clubs started getting involved in women’s football, but now we have the same minimum standard for all. We are not relying on the individual will of a club to arrange insurance for players and staff, for example. Now, we have the same insurance as all other workers in Italy.

When I receive my ‘busta paga’, my pay slip, then I can see my contribution for my pension. All this is so important, as we now are at the same level as other workers.

Juventus Imago1012214869h
Sara Gama lifts the Coppa Italia

Officially, we are the first professional women athletes in Italy. None of the other sports federations consider their women athletes to be professional, and only four consider men athletes to be professional: football, basketball, cycling and golf.

I agree with Gabriele Gravina, the president of FIGC, who said that this agreement was an ‘achievement of civilisation’. For a civilisation, it is important to give people equal opportunities. That is what we are talking about.

It has been a long way. I have been with the union since I was 21, 22-years-old, even before I went to Paris Saint-Germain. After my experiences in the US and France, I could see things from another perspective. 

When we played with the national team against other countries, we noticed that the other players were stronger and faster because they trained better. So, I wanted to improve working conditions for all of us. That’s how I started doing more things with the union.

The union is a tool in our hands to improve our lives. I saw the opportunity with the union and I played my part in the process with the federation and the clubs. Now, I am very proud because professionalism and this collective bargaining agreement are our legacy for the next generation.

This deal brings more opportunities for players, clubs and the league. On the pitch, we will improve as players because of our professional status. Off the pitch, the league can improve its image, attract more sponsors, and provide more work to people. We are improving our business and exploring new horizons.