Women's Sports: Crystal Palace's treatment of Gemma Bryan shows how far the women's game has still to go

Women's Sports Gemma Bryan

This week Crystal Palace striker Gemma Bryan took to social media to address speculation surrounding her career at Crystal Palace.

The 32-year-old explained that she suffered a tear to her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) earlier this year in April and subsequently didn't receive much support from the club. Although Palace helped cover the costs of Bryan's initial scan, once she had received the results, she was left on her own. 

On Twitter, Bryan added that once she'd received the results of her scan, the club informed her that she'd either have to self-fund or join an NHS waiting list for surgery. She's still currently waiting for any treatment.

Since being told that she'd have to pay for surgery, she's received no communication from the club. In her social media post, the striker added that she had been constantly emailing management as well as the club chairman but has still not been told that she's no longer a part of the Crystal Palace team.

What makes matters worse, Palace player Ashlee Hincks has recently suffered the same ACL tear, but unlike Bryan, has been offered full, public support from the club.

Although Women's Super League (WSL) teams are required to provide medical insurance for all of their players, teams in the Championship won't have to until next season.

In a sport that is already under scrutiny in regards to the amount players are paid, to leave said professional footballers without medical insurance and therefore in a situation where they are faced with giant surgery bills seems unjust and senseless.

Bryan has recently revealed that her medical bill was around £8000 and the women's team simply could not afford to help her. Although we must sympathise with women's clubs that are struggling to make ends meet, it must be highlighted that Palace hasn't even reached out to Bryan to check on her wellbeing.

As she put it, "the club has just left me hung me out to dry."

In a world where male athletes are only offered the best medical expertise, how are women slipping through the net with career-changing injuries?

Crystal Palace responded to Gemma Bryan's claims when talking to the BBC. "Gemma remained fully paid, beyond the terms of her agreement, until the end of the season when her registration expired." Although Gemma remained fully paid, the lack of concern for her wellbeing is something to be noted. 

Women's Sports Gemma Bryan

Like a lot of female footballers, Bryan has a day job alongside playing professionally. As a personal trainer, her unresolved ACL injury is having a huge impact on her ability to work, and therefore, earn. As well as affecting her work, she believes that physical injuries can consequently cause mental health struggles as well.

"I have been talking to a counsellor as and when I can. I have managed to get up and do my day job but it's been tough as it's in the health and fitness industry," Bryan explained.

Gemma Bryan has scored over 100 goals in three seasons for Palace, an astonishing record that is unfortunately neglected amongst this injury controversy.

The most disappointing factor that this case has highlighted, is the lack of medical support for professional women players. Although the WSL currently cover their players, they have only done so since it was ruled for the start of this season. Championship players are still expected to cover their medical costs and will have to do so until the beginning of the 2020/21 season, despite the majority of their salaries falling lower than average. 

Crystal Palace Ladies v Tottenham Hotspur Ladies - SSE Women's FA Cup Fourth Round

This year, women's football has been given a world stage and an opportunity to thrive, and the increase in publicity is something to be celebrated. Nevertheless, several issues are keeping the game from progressing further. The gender wage gap. The lack of professional training facilities. And, as Bryan has highlighted, the expectation for women to support themselves physically, mentally and financially.

It's far too unrealistic for organisations such as The FA to want equality for the women's game if they're not being provided with equal foundations to their male counterpart. The lack of support from Crystal Palace uncovers the deeper work that is yet to be done to help support professional female footballers.

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