‘I had to tell my manager before my mum’: Lionness Toni Duggan says women’s football ‘isn’t ready’ for pregnant players – revealing she hid her bump and morning sickness from teammates

  • Duggan, 31, who plays for Everton and has 76 caps for the Lionesses, revealed she was expecting her first child with long-term partner Tony in September
  • In an interview with BBC Sport this week, she revealed she hid her bump and her morning sickness from her fellow players, and told her coach before her mum
  • Duggan said: ‘I don’t think women’s football is ready for women to be pregnant’, explaining that there was no protocol for her to follow
  • Legislation was introduced for the first time this season to allow players maternity leave with full pay – prior mat leave wasn’t compulsory for WSL players

Lioness Toni Duggan has revealed how she hid her bump and morning sickness from fellow players in the dressing room, saying ‘I don’t think women’s football is ready for women to be pregnant’.

The 31-year-old, who plays her club football at Everton and has 76 caps for England, told BBC Sport that she had to break the news she was expecting to her coach, club doctor and physio before her mum – because she needed advice on whether she could still train ahead of the 12-week mark in her pregnancy. 

Duggan, who will welcome her first baby next year with her partner of seven years, Tony, is set to become the first Women’s Super League footballer to take maternity leave.

Duggan, 31, has played for Barcelona and Man City and has 76 caps for the Lionesses – and revealed she was expecting her first child in September. This week she told BBC Sport that she lied to her teammates in the early stages of pregnancy about missing training and games, saying she had a back injury instead

The Everton player, pictured playing for England in 2019, said her club have been hugely supportive about her announcement but said there are still improvements that could be made, saying: 'I don't think women's football is ready for women to be pregnant'

The Everton player, pictured playing for England in 2019, said her club have been hugely supportive about her announcement but said there are still improvements that could be made, saying: ‘I don’t think women’s football is ready for women to be pregnant’

The footballer revealed the news on social media in September, with Everton confirming that the forward would play no further part in their 2022/23 season

The footballer revealed the news on social media in September, with Everton confirming that the forward would play no further part in their 2022/23 season

She said she initially told her Everton teammates that she had a back injury, saying she didn’t know how to go about explaining why she couldn’t perform at her usual level in pre-season training. 

She said: ‘Sharing the dressing room with the girls and having to hide it, while I was being sick and starting to get a bit of a bump – all these things.

‘They didn’t realise. Nobody had clocked on that I might be pregnant. It was a big, big relief. I obviously told my family then too and they were over the moon.’

The football star said she’d never played on a team with someone who had gone through announcing the news they were pregnant before and there was no protocol to follow – but said her club has been hugely supportive of her happy news.

She first revealed she was pregnant on social media in September, with Everton confirming that the forward would play no further part in their 2022/23 season. 

An agreement between the Football Association (FA) and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) led to the introduction of legislation at the beginning of this season allowing players to take maternity leave with full pay and any other remuneration for the first 14 weeks.

Prior to the agreement, clubs in the Women’s Super League could be given maternity leave, but it was not compulsory.

Duggan pictured with her long-term boyfriend Tony; the couple are set to become parents next year

Duggan pictured with her long-term boyfriend Tony; the couple are set to become parents next year

Duggan pictured playing for England during the 2019 World Cup quarter final against Norway

Duggan pictured playing for England during the 2019 World Cup quarter final against Norway

Duggan said: ‘It was definitely a move that they needed to do. I find it crazy that it’s only just been put in place now.’

Only a small number of professional players have given birth during their playing careers, with many opting not to.

Of the Lionesses Squad that won the European Championships earlier this summer, only Demi Stokes was a parent after her female partner gave birth.

Meanwhile, many of the men’s squad for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar are parents, but do not face any disruption to their careers.

Duggan began her career at Everton, breaking into the first team in the 2007/08 season as a teenager.

She signed for Barcelona after seven years at the club, before moving onto Manchester City, followed by Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. She returned to Everton in 2021. The footballer has scored 22 goals for England, but hasn’t featured in international football since 2020.

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