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Female footballers don't deserve to be paid as much as men

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The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup garnered unprecedented international interest last month and set new viewing records. The BBC reported that 28.1 million viewers, nearly half of the British population and over double the viewers for the last World Cup, tuned in to watch the sporting event.

This surge of interest was corroborated by other news channels, and FIFA estimated viewership figures to surpass one billion ahead of the finale. This was an incredible victory for the female professional footballers who have been striving to be taken seriously as professionals and for their sport to be recognised, not as a feminine counterpart to men’s football, but as a sport in its own right. In light of this increased attention towards the sport, many have taken the opportunity to highlight the prevalent gender pay gap in professional football. Striving to tackle sexism faced by women in the industry, activists have revisited the issue of the disparities in prize money, preparation costs and club compensation awarded to men and women.  

Undoubtedly, a wage gap exists between male and female professional sportspersons. A table compiled by ‘Our Goal is Now,’ a campaign which advocates for increased prize money for female footballers, highlights the inequalities faced by female footballers:

However, many have drawn on the argument that women’s football garners less interest and is less profitable than men’s tournaments, hence the lower salaries. For example, FIFA President Gianni Infantino defended gender disparities by arguing that "maybe one day women’s football will generate more than men’s football." As mentioned before, FIFA predicted the women’s finale would draw in around a billion viewers. In comparison, the 2018 Men’s World Cup was watched by 3.5 billion people worldwide.

Whilst there has been increased interest in women’s football and one billion viewers is no small feat, how many female footballers could the average person name in comparison to male? Male footballers earn more because there is more interest in their sport, and greater audience figures generate more revenue.   

It was reported that Brazilian footballer Neymar is paid more by French football club Paris-Saint Germain than 1,693 female players from the top seven women’s football leagues combined. And whilst English female footballers are paid an average of £26,752 a year, their male counterparts earn 99 times that figure at over £2.6 million. However, Neymar and the English male footballers play football more frequently and, as a result of this, are considered more profitable by sponsors. Demanding equal pay when they are not performing an equal amount of work, simply in the name of gender equality, is sexism in itself.

Forbes also reported that if you examine how much money men and women’s football generates and then the percentage of this that the players receive, women actually make more than men.’ For example, while the 2018 Men’s World Cup generated over US$6 billion, teams received on 7% of the revenue. In comparison, the Women’s World Cup this year is projected to make $131 million, of which the players will receive 23%. In this way, we can see that men and women’s earnings are proportional to how much money they generate and in fact, women receive a larger cut of the profits than their male colleagues.

A significant proportion of athletes’ wealth stems from sponsorships and endorsements, which favour male footballers over female.  As pointed out by Ruth Holdaway, chief executive of Women in Sport, the rapidly increasing audience figures over the last few years, which has doubled since the last women’s World Cup, demonstrates immense potential in women’s football, which sponsors and brands need to utilise. Sponsors need to be paying more attention to the sport and investing in a potentially lucrative but untapped market. In this way, they can begin to narrow the gender pay gap between male and female footballers.

Brands can take inspiration from Barclays, for example, who signed a £10 million deal with the Women’s Super League, and Visa, Lucozade Sport and Head & Shoulders, who pledged to invest equal amounts on marketing the men and women’s World Cups. This will allow proper marketing of the sport, generating greater interest and audience figures and increasing the overall popularity of women’s football.

Fifa President Gianni Infantino Image Credit: Piotr Drabik via Wikimedia Commons

Undoubtedly, FIFA can also play its role to narrow the US$238 million difference between preparation costs and club payments awarded to men and women’s teams. FIFA President Gianni Infantino claims that the corporation is investing more and ‘making progress’ towards increasing the prize money by doubling its current value and allocating more money to support players.

It is important to bear in mind that while women’s football is steadily becoming more popular, there is much progress still to be made in order for it to be considered comparable to men’s sport from an investment perspective. Until then, it will not receive the same amount of financial support as men’s football.  

Lead Image Credit: Steffen Probdorf via Wikimedia Commons




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