Former England defender Claire Rafferty has said players should not be routinely weighed because they are not healthy.
Being weighed frequently from the age of 15, as well as participating in extra training sessions that players called “big club,” led Rafferty to develop an eating disorder, she said.
The 34-year-old wants change for current and future players.
“I would remove the weigh-in, I don’t think it’s necessary,” she said.
“I don’t think that’s healthy for anyone. I would delete that right away.”
Rafferty, who retired in 2019, earned 18 caps for England and played domestically for Millwall Lionesses, Chelsea and West Ham.
She represented England at the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, winning a bronze medal in 2015. Rafferty also won two Women’s Super League titles and two FA Cup trophies with Chelsea.
As a teenager, she was involved in the England youth teams, where regular weigh-ins took place.
“I think the daily life of an athlete revolves around food,” she told the BBC’s Sports Desk podcast.
“Days are planned around mealtimes. Feeling good, getting the most out of your performance from what you eat, but also the inconvenience from an early age of being weighed every morning.
“I remember being weighed every morning at international camps from the age of 15 and as a result becoming very aware of body image and what you actually eat.”
Rafferty says it was his time with the international team where the weigh-in came into focus.
She believes this was done for physiological and performance purposes.
“We were always at the same time so we could see what the others were weighing. It was all common information that was available to everyone and I think it probably should have been done in isolation,” he said. -she adds.
“We should have been told why they wanted to do it. I think if we were just to educate the players on why I wouldn’t have had so many issues regarding my image and identity.”
“It’s quite shameful”
Being weighed in was not Rafferty’s only concern when she took part in the FA sessions at the elite player development center in Loughborough.
If players had not run a certain amount during a session or if those following the sessions thought a player’s body fat was “higher than they thought”, players would have to do additional sessions called “big club”.
“I don’t remember the staff calling them big clubs but the players called them big clubs,” she added.
“[We did that] to shed some light because actually it’s quite a shame to have to do extra sessions on top of a full-time training schedule, so it had to be made into a joke.”
Most of England capped player Fara Williams spoke last year of a similar experience of being at “big clubs” if the players’ body fat percentage was considered too high.
“My eating disorder was the only thing I had control over”
Rafferty has previously opened up about his eating disorder and said women in football she battled bulimia “for a while before binge eating and excessive exercise took over.”
She added that she felt her eating disorder was the only thing she had control over.
“I felt that if I ate a lot, I needed to train more and exercise too much to try to compensate,” she said. “I knew exactly what I had weighed the night before and was incredibly aware of how my body looked and felt.
“I still am and I guess I always will be. That’s the lasting scar that remains.”
A Football Association spokesperson said: “The mental health and physical well-being of all players is of paramount importance, and women’s football has come a long way in recent years in the professional leagues and within the England teams.
“This includes providing England players with greater support and improved processes to manage food and nutrition, and the possible psychological impacts associated with this area.
“In professional women’s football, we have required all clubs to have a player care strategy that includes mental health, wellbeing and nutrition, and we continue to work with clubs to develop these strategies to ensure better education and action for their players.”
If you or someone you know has been affected by eating disorders, these organizations may be able to help.