Equal play demands equal pay
By Hilda Berg
More than one billion viewers are expected to tune into this year’s Women’s World Cup in soccer. That makes it one of the biggest sporting events on the planet. And for the first time, Fifa announced that each player in the world cup was going to be rewarded 30,000 USD, and all players on the winning team 270,000 USD each. Despite this seemingly large prize pool – all adding up to a total of 49 million USD – it only amounts to 25 cents for every dollar earned by the men at the World Cup in Qatar last year.
What is even more baffling is that these 25 cents are seen as a massive accomplishment, considering the substantial increase from the 8 cents for every dollar earned by a man, which was the pay disparity at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Sexism in football can be easily spotted in today’s sporting culture. The statistics of the current world cup only add to a long list of troubling facts regarding treatment and attitude towards female soccer players, and it seems as if this systematic issue has its roots deeper than most care to dig for.
According to a Forbes estimation, legendary household names such as Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, who are also the highest earning female soccer players, earned a total of 5.7 million USD each in 2022. While this certainly puts them into a very elite tax bracket, it is comparatively nothing considering that their male counterpart, Christiano Ronaldo, earned 136 million USD in the same time period. In fact, reports have found that top level female players may earn in a year what their male counterparts earn in a month.
In some countries, female soccer players may even be forced to sustain themselves on nothing more than 600 USD a month, if they even receive a salary at all. Of course, one would assume this refers to countries where women’s soccer is less established, where rigid gender norms continue to keep women out of sports as well as other parts of society. Nevertheless, numerous players of one of the arguably most famous teams, the England’s Lionesses, have been forced to take on second jobs as a means to put food on the table. Stars such as Lucy Bronze recalls working at the pizza-chain Dominos to make ends meet – despite her legendary globally renowned status. It is safe to say that Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and other equivalents don’t have to deal with this issue.
Another show of blatant disrespect against female athletes is the US Soccer Federation. Out of the 8 Women’s World Cup games hosted, the United States have walked away with the gold medal in half of them. It is certainly an unmeasurable, undeniable receipt of success. Despite this, in 2016, five of the team’s high profile players filed EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) complaints on pay discrimination, followed by lawsuits in 2019 due to a lack of action on the claim that it was based on their gender. The lawsuit has since been settled and the US Soccer Federation has vowed to work with both the men’s- and the women’s team to equalize pay moving onwards. Still, circumstances such as the ones regarding one of the most, if not the most, successful teams in the world rightfully raises the question of whether gender pay disparities in sports really are about revenue, as many claim, or if they are simply a reflection of the harsh realities of society.
Even if the obvious pay disparities were about the teams which generate the most revenue, it truly just circles back to the same point: outdated stereotypes and strict social rules not only keep many girls from pursuing sports in the first place, but they also degrade the women who actually make it, placed under the illusion that women’s sports, for some reason, just isn’t good enough. They refuse to watch it, touch it or even be associated with it. Such a point would explain why, for instance, the US Women’s Soccer team has to fight rigorously for equal treatment, despite proving their competence on the field to an undoubtable extent. Their playing isn’t the problem – the attitude of the public is.
If competence equaled revenue, the US Women’s team would produce, and hence earn, much more than the US Men’s team. The same goes with countries such as Sweden and Japan. In other words, it doesn’t matter how many titles women’s soccer teams all over the world win, society still doesn’t believe they’re worthy of our attention and thus, they don’t get it. That’s why certain men’s teams generate more revenue. It is not because they are more successful, but simply because they aren’t women. It is a harsh reality, which disproves our hope that gender pay disparities are a thing of the past. Yet, it is also the only reasoning which fits reality. It is our sexist attitude towards women’s sports which keeps the soccer players of the 2023 Women’s World Cup earning 75 cents less than their male counterparts earns on a dollar. Our hesitant attitude towards recognising female soccer players for the athletes they are, are as problematic as ever, and it is time for this problem to be recognised as the systematic, societal issue it is.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi! I’m Hilda and I am a High School junior from Sweden. I also work as the ambassador manager for WIP and love to write, debate and develop projects, which is why I joined this organization. I hope to soon release my first book and continue writing about important matters!