Women’s soccer is a big deal.
And it’s growing fast.
And seeing as the women’s and men’s game entertain large crowds for the same amount of time on the pitch – the disparity in pay is still a huge issue.
Meet the Spokeswoman of Soccer
The unofficial spokesperson of Women’s soccer is Meghan Rapinoe. The starlet of US Soccer, Women’s World Cup Winner and all-round superstar, has been the person standing up for equality in soccer.
It has taken her to the White House – an invitation she politely declined – to the news stations across the globe. Others have since joined her in her fight to see that Women’s Soccer gets the recognition it deserves – but there is a long battle ahead, despite some recent achievements.
Equality in Soccer – Cash for Entertainment
Some will point to the massive gulf in audience figures for women’s and men’s soccer matches on TV. But in the most recent women’s World Cup, global figures reached more than one billion fans – more than enough to warrant a payrise from the nominal figures given out to women soccer superstars, no?
On average, a women competing in the Womens Super League in the UK will earn around £27,000. Compare this to the average wage for their male counterpart in the UK and this is around £60,000 per WEEK. So an average male player in the top flight of soccer in the UK can earn what a woman soccer player does – in just three and a half days.
But there is hope.
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The trailblazers for Women’s soccer as discussed above is most definitely the US team. They have won the last two World Cups and their team now contain household names like Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd. And even though Carli Lloyd has since retired from international duty, she still commands a cool $500k yearly salary from Gotham, her NWSL side she plies her trade for.
And the US as a whole are showing the way forward when it comes to equality in soccer. U.S. Soccer Federation paid $34.1 million in salary and bonuses to the women’s national team between 2010 and 2018, yet only $26.4 million to the men. If this is down to performances, then this is fair, with the women overshadowing anything the men have been able to manage in recent years.
This approach is having a ripple effect across women’s soccer too.
The FA (the Football Association in England) told reporters in 2020 that they pay both the women and men the same appearance fees, which are donated in full by the men and partly by the women.
This may seem admirable, but if we dig a little deeper, then the truth is that equality is still pretty far away.
FIFA Nees to Step Up
While the appearance fee match may seem a step in the right direction, it is a grain of sand on an unequal beach.
The appearance fee in question is ‘only’ around £2000 – chump change for the male players.
And when you consider other pay factors, it seems the equality battle is set to wage on for some time.
And this is largely down to the ignorance of FIFA.
When it comes to giving soccer players what they deserve for success, the lines in the sand couldn’t be further apart.
Widely reported, if the England Women had lifted the most recent Women’s World Cup, they would have been awarded £50,000 each. If the men had lifted the 2018 World Cup, the reward would have been more than four times as much.
When the French mens soccer team lifted the 2018 World Cup, they grabbed a cool $38m. When the US Women’s team destroyed all before them? Just $4m.
To highlight the overall disparity, FIFA gave $30m to competing women’s teams and $400m to the men.
And yet, in other sports, the equality gap is shrinking.
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In tennis, global superstars such as Serena Williams and Andy Murray have highlighted that the gap should be much smaller, seeing as courts are still packed out to capacity for both female and male matches.
The key factor in tennis though, is that men’s games DO last longer than their female counterparts. Instead of playing best of three sets, they play to best of five. That means that in the most basic of senses, the men DO provide more entertainment, so there may always be a gap of sorts. Although in tennis, the gap is much smaller than anywhere else.
In golf, ladies enjoy huge tournament purses as sponsorships and TV audiences are very similar to the mens game.
In soccer though, there’s a long way to go, but the path is looking much brighter.
Cream of the Crop – and TV Deals Growing
Only last year, broadcasting giants Sky purchased TV rights for the UK Women’s Super League – breaking records for the amount of money involved.
Add to this the sponsorship deal with Barclays Bank and the state of soccer looks bright in Europe.
The cream of talent is being recruited by English powerhouses Arsenal and Chelsea.
Vivianne Miedema, Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder, Stiva Blackstenius, Rafaelle Souza, Leah Williamson – leading lights of the women’s soccer game now feature in England. Because who can blame them for wanting to earn a wage that DOESN’T require a second job?
And then we get to maternity rights.
Basic Needs Met?
Previously, before Feb 2022, women in England felt they had to choose between a soccer career and having a family.
And now, the FA have now revealed a landmark deal that allows women to have a baby and still be paid their full salary for 14 weeks. And there is no qualifying period either – whereas before, a woman would have had to have been at her club for 26 weeks before qualifying for this.
The bottom line is that women should have had this as standard, rather than celebrating the fact they can still afford to have a baby and earn a wage.
And a smaller pay gap is scant reward for the remarkable growth the women’s soccer game has enjoyed in recent years.
The 2020 NWSL Championship game between the Washington Spirit and Chicago Fire drew in a gargantuan 216% rise in viewing figures in the US. Numbers like this represent the huge appetite for the women’s game – and so the sponsorship deals rise too.
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Money Graphs on The Rise for Women’s Soccer
And when sponsorship rises, so do TV deals for the sporting competitions. And when that happens, the dollars roll downhill to the players.
Compare this to UK, where the domestic league is most akin in terms of stature. A regular WSL fixture between Manchester City and Everton drew in 800,000 viewers on terrestrial channel BBC.
And if projected figures continue, then the WSL would be the fourth most popular domestic competition in the UK.
And this is understandable, given the competitive nature we are seeing in the WSL this season.
The top four sides in the league table are currently only separated by six points – with all sides having dropped points to lower ranked sides. It means that the weekly fixture list throws up regular surprises, which is another reason why viewing figures continue to soar.
Each and every side boast international class in their ranks and pulling power for the world’s greatest talent has never been greater.
The women’s game is in rude health and matches are especially huge for stadium goers in the US. While stadium capacities in the WSL are limited to a few thousand – there are exceptions, when Arsenal play at the home of their male counterparts, the Emirates stadium, holding up to 60,000 – but in the NWSL, figures in the stands regularly reach 14,000 in Portland, and approaching 10,000 at Louisville.
The upward trajectory of the women’s game is abundantly clear. Sponsors are flocking to sign up players and clubs. Viewers are tuning in across the world and money is growing the game of soccer for women in a big way. Next time there is a game scheduled on TV, check it out. You’ll see that the thrills and spills are the same.
And for 90 minutes, you’ll be gripped.