By Gregory Bryce
Last week, I wrote about the gender wage gap in the sport of football, and explained why it was that the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) had their case appealing for ‘equal pay’ dismissed in court. In that piece, I explained the specific conditions in that situation that led to the women’s team being paid less than the men’s.
This week, I think it best to explain the general setup of the pay structures for the men’s and women’s team, explain why there is a vast difference in the amount of money that each athlete earns on average and why equal pay is not as impossible as some may think.
The first thing to understand is that the pay structure of athletes in football generally changes based on the competition. For example, when an athlete plays for their club, they are paid by that club. When the athlete plays for their country in an international FIFA competition, they are then paid by FIFA with their country’s football association (FA) acting as proxy. This means that the players are paid by their FA using the money given by FIFA. And lastly, in terms of international friendlies, the athlete’s pay is determined solely by their FA.
For each situation, the financial set up is different, and the likelihood of equal pay between the genders fluctuates across all three types of competition. For example, equal pay in club competition is considered highly unlikely at this point in time. However, there are cases where countries like England, Brazil, Australia, Norway and New Zealand have decided to pay their women’s teams equally for international competitions.
But why is this so? Why is there a disparity across the various competitions?
In the case of club duties, a player is paid the amount of money that they are valued at within the club, while taking into account the amount of money that the team earns overall. The total revenue that a team earns directly influences the budget put in place for player wages. There are many factors that changes a player’s value, including a player’s image, age, and performances amongst other things.
In the men’s sport, these values are astronomically high. Take for instance the transfer of superstar Neymar from Barcelona to PSG. It is reported that PSG paid a reported $263 million to sign the Brazilian and sees him earning an estimated $36 million.
When you put this in comparison with Lucy Bronze, 2020 FIFA’s Best Player of the Year and one of the women’s sports top earners, the divide in clear. Bronze was reportedly on a contract that saw her earning an estimated $198,000 per year.
This means that for every dollar that Bronze makes, Neymar earns approximately $200.
But why is this so?
Well, that is decided by the player’s marketability. Neymar is simply a more marketable athlete, and persons are willing to pay more to see him play.
In fact, on the same day that Neymar’s transfer was announced, PSG reportedly made over a million dollars in Neymar’s shirt sales in less than a few hours.
In the case of international competition, it is all dependent on the revenue earned from the competition. As I said last week, the 2019 Women’s World Cup generated $131 million dollars, with the winners earning $4 million (3% of the revenue). The 2018 Men’s World Cup generated $5.4 billion dollars, with the winners earning $38 million (less than 1% of the revenue).
With these numbers, it becomes clear as to why the men earn more than the women. It is simply because they continually generate more money.
Where international friendlies are concerned, it is a more even playing field since the players are paid by their FAs, which have the final say as to how much the teams are paid. Since there is no such thing as a transfer market in international competition, a player’s wage is equal to that of his teammate across the board. No player is expected to make more money from the national team than his teammate, and many countries are applying this principle across genders as well.
As seen in the aforementioned cases of Brazil, England, Australia, Norway and New Zealand, the pay that the men’s and women’s teams earn is equal.
Gregory Bryce is a freelance sports journalist.
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