Connected Career Women Opinion

No Level Playing Field: The Gender Pay Gap In Soccer

This June, millions tuned in to watch the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France where the US Women's National Team emerged victorious. The now-ended tournament was the largest edition to date, and it broke viewership records showing the growth of women's soccer. Despite the progress made by women in the sport, the sweet victories overshadowed the bitter injustice that women in soccer face. It is no secret that female players earn substantially less for the work they put in on the field than their male counterparts, as this has been the case for years.

Professional female soccer players have been calling for equal pay for years, and the enormous wage gap between male footballers and female counterparts does not seem to be closing.

This recent Women’s World Cup brought fresh, loud calls for equal pay for women’s football teams. During the awards ceremony in Lyon on Sunday, supporters in the stadium chanted “equal pay” after the final between the USA and Netherlands.

The FIFA World Cup is itself, unfortunately, an example of the inequalities that have remained a standard feature of soccer despite the many appeals made for change.

FIFA awards a mere of $30 million in prize money for the women’s World Cup while the world footballing governing body bankrolls a handsome $400 million for the men’s tournament. The prize money for men is more than ten times higher than what the women get.

While FIFA has certainly contributed to the problem, the culprits are not just FIFA.

National federations have consistently award higher bonuses and incentives to their men’s side for appearances than they do to women for winning and tournaments.

World champions, the US National Women’s Team have been vociferous in campaigning for fair wages, even suing the national soccer federation for discrimination in the distribution of incentives and bonuses. The US Women’s Team has won four world cup titles while the men’s side has failed to reach the same heights, and yet the team is awarded $730,000 less in bonuses than the men’s team. The reason behind this, they argue, is that sexism is at the core of the unequal wages. 

Those who are calling for equal pay for women and men teams feel that women justly deserve to earn as much as the men do.

One big argument is that although football has been dominated by men, for the most part, it is because for decades women were banned from professional football and it is only now that the popularity of the women’s game is recovering from decades of not being recognized.

The first FIFA men’s world cup was held in 1930, but only in 1991 did we see the first women’s world cup. 

Women’s football did not get a fair chance to thrive to reach the level of popularity of the men’s game because of the bans and lack of investment in women’s football. Therefore, an equal pay system would not only allow women’s teams to enjoy the same financial status as the men do, but it is a step in the right direction to level the playing field. Norway’s football federation, for example, instituted a policy in 2017 where the women’s national team would receive the same amount as the men’s team for appearances.  

Women compete for the same titles and put in the same amount of work and even outperform the men’s teams, and it is only fair that they get paid the same.

There is a lot of ground for women to close in on the wage gap in soccer, but it is possible if we get behind women, and demand equal pay for women’s football teams. 

About the Author

Margaret Mandeya is a writer and a communications enthusiast based in Kigali. She is passionate about telling stories that celebrate and inspire other women to be confident and unapologetically authentic.

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{featured image courtesy Getty Images}

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