There’s no ‘pay gap’ in professional football

The Women’s World Cup doesn’t generate anywhere near as much money as the men’s.

John Glynn

Topics Feminism USA World

Shortly before the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer gave a shout-out to the US soccer team. He reminded everyone how much less the female players get paid than their male counterparts.

‘The women make just as much of a sacrifice, put in just as much mental and physical energy, absorb just as much risk of injury as the men who play for our national team,’ Schumer said. ‘Yet, when you break it down, a women’s national soccer team player earns a base salary of $3,600 per game while a men’s player earns $5,000.’

Not finished there, an impassioned Schumer continued: ‘Discrimination is staring us all in the face. These women, who inspire our country with their poise, tenacity, skill and excellence every time they take the field, deserve to be fairly compensated.’

Shortly after Shumer’s performative plea, a writer for the Huffington Post, the virtue-signallers’ digest, weighed in, pointing out that female football players also earn much smaller bonuses than the men’s team for their performance in the World Cup: $15,000 compared to $55,000. ‘And here’s a stark comparison: the US Soccer Federation awarded the men’s team a $5.4 million bonus after losing in Round 16 of the 2014 World Cup. It awarded the women’s team $1.7 million when it won the entire 2015 tournament.’

It is certainly the case that the US women’s national team has been ridiculously successful: four World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. This is the most successful team ever to play women’s football. But it is not true to say they are being treated unfairly.

Back in 2016, five prominent members of the team filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The women alleged that the US Soccer Federation was sexist, hence the reason for the pay disparity. In 2017, they signed a new collective-bargaining agreement. Though the deal resulted in additional pay, it clearly wasn’t good enough.

Another lawsuit was filed three months ago, on International Women’s Day. Twenty-eight members of the US team accused US Soccer of violating both the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act. The LA Times published a stinging editorial in support of their complaint: ‘The US women’s soccer team outperforms the men’s team when it comes to victories, domestic viewership, name recognition and general awesomeness. Its members are stars, consistently ranked No1 in the world, and they make millions of dollars for their employer, the US Soccer Federation.’

However, those arguing for equal pay with the men’s team miss a crucial point. Yes, the women are indeed ‘No1 in the world’. But events like the World Cup and the Olympics come around every four years. The rest of the time, unlike their male counterparts who play for elite clubs, the ladies are rarely in the limelight. The men are consistent cash cows, playing in front of huge crowds once, if not twice, a week. But this only scratches the surface.

I wonder how many of those complaining about the pay gap actually attend or watch women’s professional football on a regular basis? One of the major factors that separate men’s sports and women’s is a not so little thing called revenue. To put it bluntly, female football players, just like female basketball players and female hockey players, are paid less because their respective sports draw smaller audiences and therefore make less money.

For instance, the total prize money for the Women’s World Cup in France this July was $30 million. The total prize money for the men’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be $440 million. This sounds like a criminal gap. But when you take into account how much money each competition generates, women actually make proportionately more than men.

As an article in Forbes points out, the 2015 Women’s World Cup brought in almost $73million, of which the players got 13 per cent. The 2010 men’s World Cup in South Africa made almost $4 billion, of which only nine per cent went to the players. Last year, the men’s World Cup in Russia generated over $6 billion total in revenue but the participating teams shared only $400 million of that – less than seven per cent of the overall revenue. Meanwhile, the 2019 Women’s World Cup made somewhere in the region of $131million, doling out $30million – well over 20 per cent of collected revenue – to the participating teams.

One final point. Men’s sports, especially men’s team sports, are, for most people, more entertaining to watch than their women’s equivalent. Whether it is men’s football or basketball, when compared with the female equivalent, the skill levels on show are incomparable. When you sit down and watch the intricate movement and passing of teams like Liverpool or Manchester City, you quickly realise that nothing like this exists within the world of women’s football. On the other hand, sports that highlight the strengths of female athletes, like gymnastics, ice-skating and tennis, are popular.

None of this is to say that supreme female athletes do not exist. Serena Williams, for example, is powerful and highly skilled. She is a genuinely gifted athlete. However, even Serena realises that men are stronger. Despite having won 23 Grand Slam titles, Williams, appearing on Late Night With David Letterman in 2013, had this to say: ‘For me, men’s tennis and women’s tennis are almost, two separate sports. If I was to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes.’

We can debate the qualities of men’s sports and women’s sports all day and still clash heads. But if we want to have an honest conversation about earning disparities, we have to acknowledge that as long as women’s sport makes less money, and draws in fewer spectators, women’s athletes will be paid less.

John Glynn is a writer.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Feminism USA World


cliff resnick

13th July 2019 at 7:04 pm

It’s a free market if the women’s game can generate the income then so be it, however unlikely that might be. My assessment is the standard is not great compared to mens football, the England team might do very well in county league football or even a district league, maybe. When Man U come in with an offer of £50,000,000 for Englands current central striker I will be more convinced. If women like playing football great what’s not to like but please a little less social engineering and the BS that goes with it.

christopher barnard

8th July 2019 at 7:24 pm

Women world cup players should consider themselves fortunate that they get any prize money at all when many men who can play to a much higher standard never go to a world cup and get zero prize money.

James Knight

8th July 2019 at 5:46 pm

A shame the competition ended with a grievance claim. Painting themselves has hard done by was never going to earn them respect.

If and when the women’s game can bring in as much sponsorship and TV money as the men’s game, there is little doubt their pay would rise. Special pleading is doing no favours to anyone.

Jerry Owen

8th July 2019 at 5:37 pm

If they were to take their tops off after scoring a goal they may be worth a pay rise.

Amit Kulkarni

8th July 2019 at 5:27 pm

I don’t get it why society has became so obsessed with women that now we are even ready to murder unborn babies because women want it. This Gender pay gap issue is already debunked so many times yet we are listening to same nonsense again and again like this is the most important issue of humanity rather than childrens dying of hunger in Africa and Asia. We are living in gynocentric society.

Crutch Bender

8th July 2019 at 3:53 pm

Women’s football, tennis, cricket, etc is laughable. The Number One female tennis player wouldn’t get in the top 200 or 300 on the male side, and yet they get equal prize money. Such so called ‘equality’ is an obscene disgrace, no question. As for the joke football we just saw in the women’s world cup, do me a favour. Schoolboys play better for zero cash payment, and yet they want mega-bucks?

Linda Payne

8th July 2019 at 3:01 pm

Women’s football is a totally different ball game; they are a lot slower in their passes and are always giving the ball away, some of the goals look too easy as well; not that I could do what they do but it really is not at the same level and I doubt that it will be anywhere as popular as the men’s game, having said that I did watch some matches and wanted England women to win

James Knight

8th July 2019 at 5:53 pm

It is like non league team players expecting the same money as the premiership players.

eli Bastenbury

8th July 2019 at 11:36 am

In 2017 the USA female team lost 5-2 to Dallas boys under 15. In time they will get paid better, the quality is getting better, but has a long way to go. Anyone who watched the performance of Cameroon v England could see that. one thing men’s and women’s game share is bad refs. Iv’e always thought getting live women’s football on a Sunday afternoon would be good for the game, but maybe it’s just too expensive.

Ian Davies

8th July 2019 at 11:00 am

Agree that pay should be judged as a portion of the available pot, not simply on absolute terms, this would simply not work in practice.
Disagree on the entertainment value though, I thought the skill levels were high but I am no expert. What was disappointing for me though was that I hate watching football due to the primadonnas diving all over the place to get advantage which to my way of thinking is a professional foul, this is encouraged by refs that condone this, managers that demand it and fans that put up with it. Unfortunately I could see this creeping into the woman’s game.

Christopher Tyson

8th July 2019 at 7:49 am

When televised football began it was a case of filming an event. TV companies are now major players. We’ve seen the gentrification of football and the prominence of the TV audience. Clubs have worked hard to removed the more volatile spectators, working class fans have been priced out and behaviour is strictly monitored. It has reached a point where clubs are now becoming aware of a lack of atmosphere in grounds and I understand that Tottenham actually had acoustics designed in to their new stadium to increase noise and atmosphere. My brother is nostalgic for our days on the Shed at Chelsea, he prophesises that in the not to distant future spectators will be paid to attend matches as they become a fully fledged TV events. With TV as a spectator sport women’s football will not have to justify itself by the numbers of bums on seats. Incidentally digital on-line football is pretty big now so I’m told, so there are young football fans who know only the digitalised version of the game, in time we may be able to do with out the live spectacle altogether.

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