The Wellington Phoenix’s latest announcement about the release of midfielder Chloe Knott from the remainder of her contract might be about more than meets the eye.
In a statement on Thursday, the club announced Knott decided to temporarily step away from her professional career, citing the challenges of balancing a fulltime job and part-time A-League commitments.
However, a personal statement dropped by Knott on social media just hours later revealed her reasoning to walk was far more complex.
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, she said her “values no longer align with the club or current management”.
“I want to work in an environment where all employees feel valued and respected at all ages and in every phase of their career, where their commitment and sacrifice is understood and appreciated, without needing to ask for it first.
“It’s not good enough to wait for something drastic to happen before changes are made.
“I hope that this (my departure) can be a catalyst for systemic cultural change within the club and particularly the women’s game.”
The experienced player, 27, has yet to miss a match in the Phoenix women’s team since the side’s establishment in 2021.
Despite her outstanding contributions on the field, including a match-winning goal against Perth Glory in Auckland on Saturday night, Knott felt that the joy of being in the Phoenix environment was not outweighing the financial pressures she was facing.
During her tenure, Knott not only showcased her skills on the field, scoring five goals in 38 matches but also emerged as one of Wellington’s leaders. She took on the role of leading the team for a significant part of the 2022-23 season in the absence of the injured club captain Lily Alfeld and was named one of the team’s vice-captains under new head coach Paul Temple.
“We admire Chloe Knott as a player and a person too much to respond to her comments in the media. The club respects her opinion and will continue to work to champion the Wellington Phoenix women’s team,” a Wellington Phoenix spokesperson.
“A lot of time has been invested into our women’s programme, on the off the pitch, over the past six months to a point where we believe it is the best high-performance environment in the league. We’ve created an environment players want to be a part of.
“The wider club has also undertaken a lot of work on our culture and values this year and inaugural women’s captain Lily Alfeld has recently been appointed to lead this area in the future.
“And we are fighting for A-League women’s players to be paid better. The club will continue to push Australian Professional Leagues (APL) to increase the minimum wage and the salary cap, which are dramatically undervaluing our players.”
Temple expressed his gratitude for Knott’s contributions, saying: “I want to thank Chloe for the fantastic service she’s given this team and the club. Her attitude and commitment have always been incredibly professional. She’s an amazing person, and we will certainly miss having her presence around the training ground.”
A recent survey found women’s football is failing its players in key areas including medical support and pay.
Surveying players from this year’s World Cup, 60 per cent said they lacked mental health support, while one in three earn less than $48,000 a year from football.
Newly-named Football Fern Manaia Elliott told RNZ she has seen the negative impact poor mental health can have on players - with her words carrying extra weight following the sudden departure of Knott.
Called up to the New Zealand squad for their series against Colombia, 18-year-old Elliott agrees that women need more support in the game.
“It’s become so evident in recent years, I’ve seen it first hand with teammates, how it affects the game. and at the end of the day, everyone is just there to turn up and play the game they love and sometimes performances can be affected quite dramatically. So I think that’s something that needs to be addressed.”
Having been thrust into the international spotlight early on through the age grade system, Elliott says while progress has been made, there is a long road ahead.
“In terms of mental health support, I’ve felt support but I think it could have really improved and in terms of pay equity is not even near where it needs to be. So that’s something that needs to be looked at and will definitely affect the future of women’s football.”
- With RNZ
Bonnie Jansen is a Multimedia Journalist in the NZME Sports team. She’s a keen footballer and has worked with the Alternative Commentary Collective before joining the Te Rito cadetship scheme.