Equal in Play, but Not Equal in Pay

By Anna D.

The core fact is not up for debate: players on the World Cup-winning US Women’s National Team earn significantly less than their male counterparts on the US Men’s National Team. Uncovering the secrets behind the huge pay disparity could reveal this truth that has been hidden for so many years. How much less do they earn? What is being done about it? And how can it be made equal? The average salary for a US Women’s National Team player just reaches $37,800, while the average salary for a US Men’s National Team player is $300,000. What a difference — both teams train and work just as hard, but one is given a higher reward. Why?

In 2015, after the Women’s World Cup, five top members of the US Women’s National Team filed a Wage Discrimination Act complaint against FIFA, arguing that they not only generate more money for the US Soccer Federation but they’re also more successful. They argued that the wage gap shouldn’t be so significant and that they should be given the same opportunities as the men’s team receives when it comes to wages. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough, and no action was taken in response to their claims. “That’s not even a question I will answer because it’s nonsense,” FIFA’s Secretary General, Jérôme Valcke, stated in 2014 regarding equal pay among the sexes. “We are still another 23 World Cups before potentially women should receive the same amount as men.” After expressing his brutal opinion, Jérôme Valcke has since been fired from the FIFA Organization, and his spot has been replaced.

Critics argue women’s soccer isn’t as popular, therefore making it less profitable than men’s soccer. However, in the 2015 Women’s World Cup, where the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) was crowned champions after defeating Japan with a score of 5-2, the fan report states that 26.7 million people in the US watched the game. Whereas, in the 2014 Men’s World Cup, only 26.5 million people watched Germany defeat Argentina 1-0 in the final. While the difference may seem minimal, only a .2 million viewer difference, in reality, that difference can determine the player’s final pay. Since the USWNT received more viewers, logically they should be paid more. However, this was not the case.

But, even with a higher number of people watching their victory in the final game, the USWNT still received extremely less prize money. The Women’s National Team (WNT) received only a $2 million reward for defeating Japan in the final in the 2015 FIFA World Cup, while just a year earlier the German Men’s Team received a reward of $35 million for their World Cup victory. “I think that we’ve proven our worth over the years. Just coming off of a World Cup win. The pay disparity between the men and women is just too large and we want to continue to fight. The generation of players before us fought and now it’s our job to keep on fighting,” says Carli Lloyd, a captain on the USWNT, and one of the five top members who insisted on fighting for a change.

The total payout for the Women’s World Cup was $15 million— which ends up being less than 3% of the $538 million of total earnings male players make. The 16 men’s teams knocked out in the first round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup each received $8 million, and the 11th place US Men’s Team earned $9 million.The US Women’s Team, who was victorious, won less than a quarter of what the American men earned, who came in 11th place. The poorer pay went to the team crowned champions, not the teams that failed to come anywhere near the finals.

In the NWSL (the top US women’s soccer league), each team has a player cap of about $256,000, while the MLS (the top US men’s soccer league) is given more than a $3 million salary cap per team. FIFA claims it doesn’t categorize its earnings, making it extremely difficult to determine just how much women’s soccer brings in. Even the highest paying women’s soccer player, Alex Morgan doesn’t make nearly as much money as most of the professional male soccer players.

Alex Morgan, being the highest paid American female soccer player in 2016, has a yearly salary of just $450,000, and also takes home around $1 million in endorsements, coming from companies such as McDonald’s and Chapstick. Still, her pay pales when compared to American male players, such as Landon Donovan, who earns about $2 million just from his team, let alone professional international players, like Messi and Ronaldo who collect tens of millions of dollars per year. Recently, in 2018, Messi signed a contract with Barcelona, setting him up to become the world’s highest paid footballer, where teams will have to pay $835 million if they wish to purchase him.

How is this fair? It’s not. The pay for women in soccer, and all other professional sports, is exceedingly low compared to men. The women soccer teams have proven to be highly impressive, surpassing the expectations society had set out for them. In the first few months of 2016, not to mention the few years before then, the Women’s National Team has played more games than the Men’s National Team— sometimes about 40 or 50 percent more. And yet, the women still rank supreme, having won twice as many games as the men, 88 victories to the men’s 44. What does that prove? In addition, the pay gap is even more egregious when you think about the prize money offered by the FIFA Organization. After many years of lagging behind, in 2016, the USWNT earned more money than the USMNT, and were still paid significantly lower than the Men’s team by FIFA.

Considering the fact that men’s soccer has been around longer and is more well known, for various reasons, you can understand a few reasons why they may have a higher pay. However, the pay is incredibly higher than females, plus the bonuses and World Cup rewards are unnecessarily greater than what the women receive. That needs to change.

Over the years, female athletes have proven themselves and their extensive abilities, in hope for an equal reward. The reality is, women are underestimated, leading to significant less pay compared to male athletes— a pay differential of about $262,200. Considering the success of the USWNT, the difference in pay is completely unfair. What’s being done to solve this problem? Nothing.

To make the pay gap less severe, or to just give female athletes equal pay, FIFA should consider spending the time and resources to promote women’s soccer as much as they do men. This way, there is no excuse that the women’s leagues don’t rack in the same amount of money as the men, since they will be given the same exposure. From there, at least, it would be a fair game financially for male and female athletes— they will be given an equal opportunity to receive equal pay. Maybe they should take the worlds of Jill Ellis to heart, who said, “I think FIFA 100 percent should look at our game as a game, not as a women’s game or a men’s game.”

Student Bio

Anna D.

2018 Summer Program

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