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08th Oct 2021

Former USA international accuses US game of ignoring issues to establish women’s game

Callum Boyle

“I think women’s football has swept a lot of bad things under the rug because we want the league to succeed”

Former USA women’s international footballer Heather O’Reilly has accused the women’s game in the US of ignoring issues in order to create the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

It comes after former coach Paul Riley was sacked by North Carolina Courage after sexual misconduct allegations were made against him, which he has denied.

O’Reilly has since said that she feels problems were ignored in favour of trying to improve the quality of the NWSL.

She said: “I think women’s football has swept a lot of bad things under the rug because we want the league to succeed.

“We want to continue our personal careers and there’s not as many opportunities for players to be professional footballers so I think that’s a reason why a lot of things are just dealt with. As a player, you just take it.

“In the NWSL there’s not a ton of HR employees at clubs, there’s not a hotline for players to call, so that’s why so many things happen time after time and aren’t disciplined.”

O’Reilly played the final two years of her career under Riley and the former World Cup winner revealed just how much power her former coach had.

“He was certainly the man in charge of the club,” she said. “He was in control of every facet of the club. He was the manager [coach] but if you had a complaint about ownership or the physio, you went to Paul.

“That lack of checks and balances I think is what helped spur this problem, because no one individual should have that power. Nobody should be dealing with playing time and also contracts, and health and wellness. It’s just dangerous.

“There should have been better outlets for these two women, in particular, to be able to speak and not feel like they’d be penalised for it. They were worried for their jobs and careers.”

Last weekend, the NWSL postponed all games as a result of the allegations and have recently appointed a new executive committee following former commissioner Lisa Baird’s resignation last week.

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