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FIFA adds maternity and adoption rules to support female stars

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FIFA issued new rules on Friday to help female players and coaches during pregnancy by extending maternity cover to adoptive parents while encouraging national teams to facilitate contact with families during major tournaments. 

Football's world governing body said in a statement that the objective of the new rules, which will come into force on Saturday, "is to reflect the reality of women's football and to promote inclusivity by providing protection to female players desiring to have a family".

The rule changes come three years after FIFA imposed on its 211 member federations a maternity leave of "at least 14 weeks" for female players, remunerated at "at least two-thirds of the contractual salary".

The new regulations for adoptive parents, whether they are players or coaches, means that clubs will now have to grant "adoption leave" of at least eight weeks if the child is under the age of two. 

That period is reduced to four weeks for a child aged between two and four, and to two weeks if the child is older.

"Female players... will be able to have the necessary time with their family to emotionally connect with their child and to settle in the new role as a parent," said FIFA's statement. 

"All of this will be ensured by providing adequate leave, as well as ensuring a corresponding financial entitlement." 

To allow for their replacement, clubs will be able to register a player outside the usual windows, while young mothers returning from leave will also be able to benefit. 

FIFA also stated that "in the event of painful periods or complications linked to pregnancy", players will be able to take time off from training or matches, while retaining "their full remuneration". 

"(A football career) shouldn't be exclusive of being a mum or raising a child, it should be inclusive of that," said Jill Ellis, who coached USA to two World Cup titles. 

"If I didn't have support around me, I wouldn't have had the ability to do that and maintain my career."

In addition, member federations will be encouraged "to allow players to have more contact with their families when they are with their national team", without any binding measures. 

"In a World Cup, (a player) can potentially be away from her family for five or six weeks... and that can have a big toll on the player, mentally, but also on the child," said Sarai Bareman, FIFA's Director of Women's Football.

"So encouraging the member associations to make provision... for those mothers and parents to have the children with them during the camp, during the tournament, is a really important step which will support not only female players but all players in our sport."

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