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TESTIMONIALS. “In recognition of the time spent on the pitch”, Stade Villeneuvois has put four players under contract this season

This is the first time at the French Women’s Rugby Championship. The Villeneuve d’Ascq club signed renewable one-year “fixed-term sports contracts”, with a monthly salary of 550 euros. For the players concerned, studying or working on the side, these contracts offer “peace” and “recognition”.

This is the first time at the French Women’s Rugby Championship. Stade Villeneuvois has offered a work contract to eight of its players this season. They receive a monthly salary of 550 euros from private partners in the region. It offers recognition to its athletes, and until now only international players under contract with the federation were professional.

Villeneuve d’Ascq’s managers want to extend these “fixed-term sporting contracts” to the entire senior workforce playing in “elite 1”, the highest level, within two years. The issue of gender equality. “We want to change the place of women in sports”, says Laura Di Muzio, president of the club.

Camille Favre, student: “with this contract I have security to continue my studies”

How to combine study and top sport? Stade Villeneuvois may have found a martingale. As of this season, Camille Favre, 22, at a carpentry school in Tournai, has a little more peace of mind with his “fixed-term sports contract” and his 550 euros a month. “Without this contract, I might have stopped my studies in order to work and relieve my parents financially.”

So far, despite the help of her family, she practiced small student jobs for support. Which is not necessarily obvious when the schedule is already busy, with four days of classes (from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) and four exercises weekly (from 6 to 9 p.m.). “It was quite tiring, but thanks to this contract I stopped, she explains. That it brought me peace.”

This native of Franche-Comté started playing rugby in Morteau at the age of 5, in a family circle focused on ovals. When she was little, she only had “male player models”, because of the media coverage of women. So he takes an example from Thierry Dussautoire or Frédéric Michalak… Before flying to the center of hope Haubourdin in the north. He has been playing in elite 1 with Stade Villeneuvois for five years now.

This contract went down as “surprise” for this student. “When I was little, there were no professional women, so I imagined that this would happen to me,” she says. Today, he wants other clubs in France to take over this semi-professional status. “It must start a national movement, so that all girls in France can benefit from our status.”

Mélanie Ajavon, social worker: “train more, rest better”

For the Stade Villeneuvois centre-back, this semi-professional contract offers more than just financial comfort. It is also, and above all, “recognition that women can play sports at a high level and that they can invest in it every day”. That they, like men, sacrificed themselves to get there. Namely in elite 1.

Mélanie Ajavon has been playing for the northern club for nine years. She led a lifestyle for nine years “10,000 per hour” bring into your daily life, your work and your own exercises. “This requires careful organization,” assures this social worker, aged 33, in the association in Villeneuve d’Ascq.

“It is a sign of the club to keep the loyalty of its players who have been there for many years.”

Mélanie Ajavon, Stade Villeneuvois player under contract

If this is not the case, a monthly salary of 550 euros can give players the opportunity to practice their profession part-time and free themselves from availability. “I think ultimately it could raise our level of play, because we will be able to iftrain rest more and better”, she says. From the financial side, it allows and pays for it “to cover the costs that our practice creates”. Examples: buying crampons, gym subscription.

“It is a sign of the club to keep the loyalty of its players who have been present for many years, she says. It’s important to thank them.” And increasing attractiveness for future talents? “Yeah, I think it might help attract new players.”

Léa Gallet, Education Assistant: “acknowledgment of time spent in the field”

A Stade Villeneuvois player for eight years, captain for three, Léa Gallet dedicates a large part of her life to the oval. “This contract is recognition for the time spent on the field”, enjoy this 23 year old from Lille today. Recognition “victims” agreed from adolescence to reach a high level. “I left home at 14 to join the Hope Center. I missed a lot of family celebrations, birthdays, etc.”

According to her, this is a fair step to put into context. “The professionalization of women’s rugby in France is late compared to football, basketball or handball, she specifies. In the future, we would like our situation to improve to that of the top 14 players, with mental preparation, physiotherapists available, physical training and even more advanced support.”

In addition, this new status bodes well for the feminization of this sport. He who is an educational assistant in the boarding and day schools at the center of hope Haubourdin observes the form“admiration” among the junior players he cares about. “They have already seen us as adults, but here we are put on a pedestal, I have the impression.” As pioneers of their discipline.

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