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Gunnarsdottir wins FIFA claim against Lyon over pregnancy pay

Midfielder Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir is to be compensated by former club Lyon. Photo: Villar Lopez/POOL/AFP

French club Lyon were ordered by FIFA to compensate former player Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir for an effective pay cut during her pregnancy.

The 32-year-old hailed the ruling as a guarantee of financial security for all female players, in an open letter published in The Players’ Tribune.

Global players’ union FIFPro also hailed what they called “a landmark ruling”, the results of which FIFA published in full on Tuesday.

Lyon, record eight-time Women’s Champions League winners, put Gunnarsdottir on maternity leave in 2021.

FIFA said clubs must pay pregnant players their full salary and ruled against Lyon.

Gunnarsdottir joined from Wolfsburg in 2020. She helped Lyon win the French title and also scored in their Champions League final win over Wolfsburg.

In early 2021 she became pregnant, but continued to play and train until returning to Iceland, with a plan for an immediate return to France after the birth.

The Icelandic international said Lyon failed to pay her wages as she instead received just a fraction from state benefits.

But on Tuesday the club were ordered to compensate her 82,000 euros ($88,577).

“The victory felt like a guarantee of financial security for all players who want to have a child during their career,” said Gunnarsdottir, who had a son, Ragnar, in November 2021.

“These are part of my rights, and this can’t be disputed — even by a club as big as Lyon.”

Gunnarsdottir left Lyon at the end of last season and signed a two-year deal with Italian club Juventus.

“FIFA has reproached us for not having offered another job to Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir during her sick leave and then her maternity leave when at the time the law forbids us from doing so in France and the player had expressly asked us to be able to return to live in Iceland, which we accepted,” Lyon wrote in a statement.

“We’re proud to have had Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir in the squad. Our paths separated purely for sporting reasons.”

“If she wishes to help us today further develop French law, we would be happy to involve her in our efforts alongside Amel Majri to allow all athletes to fully experience their pregnancy as well as their return to competition,” the club added.

Majri, 29, became the first active France international to have a child in July. She played her first match in 15 months on Saturday, having suffered a serious knee injury before her pregnancy.

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