Mind the Football Pay Gap

By Sarah Belger

It’s not exactly a recent discovery that women statistically earn less than men, even when doing the same job. It is however more surprising that this is also the case when women are arguably performing better. With their success in this year’s Women’s World Cup, the US National Women’s Team (USNWT) have now won the tournament an astonishing four times; meanwhile their male counterparts have never come higher than third place. Struggle for parity between the men’s and women’s games is also nothing new. The Football Association (FA) banned the women’s game between 1921 and 1971, deeming it ‘quite unsuitable for females’. This serves to highlight how far our teams have come since then in encouraging support for the game.

It can’t stop now

In March of this year, three months ahead of the world cup, 28 members of the USNWT filed a lawsuit against ‘US soccer’ on the basis of gender discrimination with players such as Megan Rapinoe emphasising the fact that there is no longer a need to ask whether or not the women are worth higher pay, but that it is about time that real changes need to be made.

This is not the only example of such progress in the fight for equal pay. In 2016, following their win in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, the Nigerian team protested over outstanding payments. There is also proof that such demonstrations really can make a difference. In 2018, a deal was made in New Zealand granting equal payments and equal prize money to the men and women while playing in their national team. This all goes to show that gender parity within the sport is not a lost cause and with enough persistence changes will be made.

The greatest win margin in any World Cup match, including both men’s and women’s, was achieved this year by the USNWT with their 13-0 win against Thailand. Their final match against the Netherlands has in fact been reported to have had more views that any football match on English-language television since the 2015 Women’s World Cup final. Despite the USNWT generating more revenue than the men’s team, it’s been stated that $3 million more dollars were awarded to the men’s team after their loss in the 2014 World Cup compared to what the women received after winning in 2015.

Men’s pay just keeps rising…

While some will of course argue that the reason professional female players don’t earn as much as the men is simply because their clubs are not earning the same revenue, there is an equal counter argument which suggests that this is simply because the women’s game is not given anywhere near as much promotion. The fact that it even has to be referred to as ‘women’s football’, whereas the men’s is typically just ‘football’, shows how it is treated as more of a niche sport. Of course their games don’t often get the same viewership when they’re played at the same time as the Copa America and Gold Cup finals. This simply reflects a clear lack of respect towards the work they put in to get to the end of what would be considered the biggest game of the year if they were men. Football associations could at least stop raising the pay for men, as this obviously only widens the gap. The absolute top female players could earn up to £70,000 per year; seems like nothing compared to the £200,000 weekly salaries of the top Premier League players. Prize money for the 2023 Women’s World Cup is set to increase to $60 million, while the men’s will reach $440 million. Why is there any need for the men’s to increase at all?

It’s not all doom and gloom

Things really are changing. Chants and demands for equal pay were heard across the Stade de Lyon following the USNWT’s 2-0 win against the Netherlands in the World Cup Final; largely due to the great efforts which had been made by players this season to make this issue more of a public one. Street art depicting former Everton player Toni Duggan recently appeared in Liverpool celebrating her making it onto the national team, adding to wealth of art the city already has dedicated to the men of Liverpool football. It’s things like this which will encourage more young girls to take up the sport, seeing that it is just as important as the men’s, and helping step by step to achieve greater gender equality.


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