- After the US women’s national team won its second straight World Cup, there were renewed calls for the players to receive pay equal to their male counterparts’.
- One of the biggest obstacles to equal pay is the difference in revenue generated by the men’s and women’s World Cups, how FIFA distributes that revenue, and how the individual soccer federations divvy that money up among the players.
- If the women were to play alongside the men in major tournaments – as tennis does with the Grand Slam tournaments – including a single World Cup every four years, there would no longer be a gap in revenue generated by the women and the men. And if that argument goes away, so does a large chunk of the pay gap.
- Like tennis, the women’s sport would likely grow in popularity if given the same stage and level of promotion as the men, increasing the overall revenue for the sport.
- Follow all of our Women’s World Cup coverage here.
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The US women’s national team defended its World Cup title, leading to renewed calls for the American women to receive pay equal to that earned by their far less successful male counterparts.
While there are a lot of reasons and excuses for the disparity in pay, there is one simple solution that could dramatically close the gap – follow the tennis model and have the men and women play together in the same major tournaments, including the World Cup every four years.
While tennis still has a pay gap at smaller tournaments, the women have achieved equal pay at the biggest events by playing the four Grand Slam tournaments with the men. With the major sources of revenue (broadcast rights, advertising, ticket sales) pooled together, it is nearly impossible to say if the men or women are generating a larger share of the pie. Besides, with the women playing alongside the men, their game has risen to a level where it is as popular as the men’s game and often more.
Compare that with professional golf, which has the men and women playing different major events, and the women’s game still lags far behind the men’s game without the same level of promotion. While the winner of the men’s US Open received $US2.25 million this year, the champion of the US Women’s Open took home less than half of that – $US1 million.
The pay gap
Women’s soccer has already achieved an incredible amount of success on its own in a short period, especially in the US. But the pay gap still exists.
Determining how much less the US women make compared with the men is not easy because they each have their own collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) with different pay structures.
According to a lawsuit filed by the players against the US Soccer Federation (USSF) and obtained by The Washington Post, if the men and women played a similar 20-game schedule with similar results in a given year under the old CBA, the women would have earned $US99,000 compared with $US263,320 for the men. According to The Washington Post, that gap has narrowed under each team’s most recent CBA, but the women would still earn more than $US28,000 less than the men.
And those numbers assume similar results, which are most certainly not happening with the US women far out-performing the men. While the women won the World Cup, the men failed to qualify at all. As a result, the women’s national team has earned more revenue in recent years.
“The secondary ticket market for #USA-#FRA is exploding,”Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl wrote on Twitter. “Women’s World Cup TV audiences around the world are setting unexpected records. USWNT revenues exceeded USMNT’s for 3 years. The message is clear for FIFA and national federations: Pay. The. Women.”
According to the USSF, one of the reasons for the disparity can be blamed on how FIFA distributes prize money for the World Cup, one of the largest sources of nonsponsorship revenue for the national teams.
“When it comes to World Cup bonuses, USSF argues it is unfair to be held accountable for FIFA’s decisions when they are simply passing on prize money,” Meg Kelly of The Washington Post wrote.
The entire purse for the 2019 Women’s World Cup was $US30 million, with the winning country receiving $US4 million. In contrast, FIFA’s purse for the men’s 2018 World Cup was $US400 million, with the champions receiving $US38 million, more than the entire purse at the Women’s World Cup.
A large portion of the difference in prize money can be attributed to the large television contract for the men’s tournament, which generates higher TV ratings. At the same time, at least some of the popularity and viewership can be attributed to a substantially larger level of promotion, leading to a bit of a chicken-egg argument. If the women’s game were given a similar platform and performed on the same stage, the gap in the ratings would likely shrink dramatically, just like tennis.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino proposed doubling the prize money for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. But the gap between the men and women would actually increase, as the purse for the 2022 World Cup is expected to grow to $US440 million, an increase of $US40 million.
As a result, the USSF pays the men’s players $US3,000 less for a loss in World Cup qualifying than the women made for any of their many wins.
If the women were to play alongside the men in a single World Cup every four years, there would no longer be a gap in revenue generated by the women and the men, as they would be creating one larger pool. And if that argument goes away, so does a large chunk of the pay gap.
There is not a “Women’s Wimbledon” held later in the year, and there is not a “Women’s Olympics” held the year after an Olympics. There is no good reason why the most popular sport should still be holding separate men’s and women’s World Cups.
More importantly for FIFA, a single World Cup would likely benefit them in the long run. If the women were given the same stage and the same level of promotion, the popularity of its sport would grow, increasing the overall revenue generated by the sport.
It is time the men and women shared the biggest stage … and the money.