Italy volleyball club Volley Pordenone is suing a player for breaking her contract after she became … [+]
An Italian volleyball club has taken one of its players to court after she fell pregnant, claiming an apparent breach of contract. The case has prompted widespread anger and condemnation in the world of Italian sport and beyond.
After finding out she was expecting a baby and informing her volleyball club, 41-year-old player Lara Lugli was sacked by Volley Pordenone in March 2019. A month later, Lugli suffered a miscarriage.
Afterward, she asked the volleyball club to pay her the €2,500 outstanding salary due from February, at which point she had not known she was pregnant. During this month, she had been training and playing in matches as normal for the Serie B team.
However, her request was not only refused by the club, but Volley Pordenone also chose to take Lugli to court citing a breach of contract. In a move that Lugli called “shocking for its harshness and backwardness”, the club claimed Lugli had deliberately withheld the information about her wish to have a baby when she signed with the club in 2018 in order to receive a higher wage. Lugli shared a court document on Facebook in which the club accuses her of “disproportionately selling her experience” and “hiding her desire to be a mother”.
The club maintained that her departure had a serious adverse effect on the team’s performance in the championship and also resulted in losing sponsorship money.
Lugli has now made the decision to counter-sue the club, on the basis that the episode has taken a severe emotional toll on her. On May 18, the case will go to the courts.
Speaking to national newspaper La Repubblica, Lugli said, “It is unbelievable that in 2021 becoming pregnant should be considered unprofessional, criminalized like taking cocaine or testing positive for doping.” She added, “It is incredible that a woman is humiliated in this way and even her pain and very private details of her personal story are used.”
In fact, the volleyball club seemed to show little sympathy after her miscarriage, suggesting she should have returned to training even just to sit on the bench.
“Leaving aside the psychological conditions in which I was at that moment, it was a sentence of monstrous inelegance,” Lugli told La Repubblica. “I felt shame, sadness. And, now, a few days after the request for damages, I have decided to tell my story.”
It has not gone unnoticed that these events have gone public on the heels of International Women’s Day. Women’s rights groups, sports leaders and politicians have variously expressed their outrage at the treatment of Lugli.
In a message on Facebook, Italy’s foreign minister Luigi Di Maio wrote, “To think that a woman today is forced to choose between a child and her career is no longer tolerable.”
Writing on Twitter, President of the Italian Senate Elisabetta Casellati said, “To invoke the condemnation of volleyball player Lara Lugli because she is pregnant is violence against women. Motherhood has an irreplaceable personal and social value.” Giovanni Malagò, the head of the Italian National Olympic Committee, also voiced solidarity with Lugli.
I am a journalist based in Venice and originally from Scotland. I have been writing about my adopted country since I moved here five years ago after completing a degree