Costa Rica are preparing to play at the FIFA Women’s World Cup for just the second time. Qualifying for Australia/New Zealand 2023 was treated like a fiesta in every area of football in the country for the importance of the achievement, but it was celebrated with special pride within ASOJUPRO, the Costa Rican players’ union.
For this World Cup process, the union successfully negotiated a collective agreement on rights and duties for the women's national team similar to the one already achieved in 2014 for the men’s national side.
"As Latin Americans we play in the national team for love of our country," Steven Bryce, general secretary of ASOJUPRO, told FIFPRO. "But that love still left room for us to improve certain rights and conditions and obtain an agreement like the men. That is what we achieved with this deal. The players, the coaching staff and the federation qualified, but we also added to their success with this agreement.
Bryce, who as a professional footballer knew the details of a World Cup process first-hand when he played at Korea/Japan 2002, emphasised that "a suitable atmosphere, a calm approach and clear rules were created to achieve the objectives".
The agreement, signed in April 2022 and unprecedented for a Latin American country, defined bonuses, allowances, travel and other basic needs for the players. It copied the model used for the men’s team.
“The principle of the agreement is the same”, Bryce explains.
Regarding bonuses, they managed to agree the same proportional percentage that the men received on the income paid by FIFA to the Costa Rican Football Federation for participating in the global finals.
Last month, FIFA promised a package of 152 million USD to be shared out in the 2023 Women’s World Cup, a landmark for women’s football, in which FIFPRO, its member unions and more than 150 footballers in 25 national teams played a very active part.
An agreement that breaks new ground for Latin America
Achieving an agreement like the one reached by ASOJUPRO and the players with their federation is no easy task. “The players in the Costa Rica national team are not employees of the federation. That is a situation that only the United States has in this continent," Bryce points out.
It all began in the midst of talks the union was having with the country’s women's players.
“As part of our medium-term plans, we were getting together with a group of women's players to talk about their needs and start preparing for the future, listening to them to get an idea of their situation. And that was how the subject came up in one of those meetings. It was a joint idea.”
So began a process in which "unity and mutual trust" between union and players played a key part in its success. And also preparation to bring the talks to a successful conclusion.
"We started from scratch – every point was a negotiation, an explanation," Bryce reveals. "We did courses and a full programme of study in negotiation. When you go in as well prepared as we were, negotiations become normal, a matter of give and take, 'no' to this and 'yes' to that. There were vested rights but also a lot of defining achievements by objectives. That’s how you get the management to see that the players want to win things and therefore deserve to be rewarded."
Costa Rican Union ASOJUPRO
- • Division: Central and North America
- • Established: 2007
- • FIFPRO Member since: 2011
- • Website: asojupro.com
The director general sees the agreement as "a great example of working in a mature way and a call for every country to imitate Costa Rica".
He said: "It’s not for us to tell [other unions] that this is going to be the ABC but I think there are important points that gave the women’s team this great opportunity: the first is having the players, a strategic plan, knowing the aim and the timescale and being proactive rather than reactive. And being administratively prepared, because when the opportunity arrives, the window opens and you have to be ready and mature to carry out the negotiation."
Costa Rica, who only previously participated at Canada 2015, will play in the next Women’s World Cup in Group C along with Spain, Japan and Zambia.
“There were vested rights but also a lot of defining achievements by objectives. That’s how you get the management to see that the players want to win things and therefore deserve to be rewarded.”
— by Steven Bryce