When viewed analytically—based on how much money they generate—women in soccer actually make more than men. They take home roughly 23 percent of revenue whereas the men’s teams are given less than 7 percent of revenue.
However, the men’s teams have much fatter wallets, giving the effect of a huge pay disparity. The men's World Cup in Russia generated over $6 billion in revenue, with the participating teams sharing $400 million (less than 7 percent). Meanwhile, the Women's World Cup is expected to earn $131 million and dole out $30 million to the participating teams.
What Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said is true: “Women make just as much of a sacrifice, put in just as much mental and physical energy, absorb just as much risk of injury as the men who play for our national team.” Furthermore, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would prevent any government funding for the 2026 World Cup until the U.S. Soccer Federation agrees to provide equal pay to both national teams.
There are clear inequalities. The U.S. women’s national team (USWNT) has been incredibly successful: three World Cup titles, four Olympic gold medals, and still fighting for equal pay.
Is soccer, then, inherently sexist?
Do simple economics of supply and demand play a role? What if it’s as simple as a greater demand for men’s soccer, and thus a larger pot of capital?
The Fox television broadcast of the U.S. women’s national team’s victory on Sunday in the World Cup final averaged 20 million viewers worldwide, making it the most-streamed Women’s World Cup final in history – up more than 400 percent from the 2015 final.
At the 2018 World Cup, the men’s final game had 1.12 billion people tuned in for at least one minute to see France beat Croatia 4-2.
1.12 billion vs. 20 million, which is over 50 times the viewership.
The women’s league simply does not have equal amounts of people interested, and in a market driven by demand, there is no way to create exactly the same pay as a team that generates over 50 times the amount of attention.
According to the Washington Post, FIFA argued that pay differences between male and female players are “based on differences in aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.”
And if these statistics make you upset, it’s understandable. But before pointing fingers, the real question is this:
Do you go to women’s soccer games?
If disparities in pay between men’s and women’s soccer clubs is angering, then attendance at games needs to increase. Simply put, more people need to want to watch, which will eventually generate much higher revenue. But money from games accounts for only one-quarter of soccer’s revenue. Sponsorships make up a huge portion.
Alex Morgan, a prominent women’s soccer player, earns a $450,000 yearly salary. But her endorsements from companies like Nike, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola will bump her 2019 earnings to $1 million. Members of the USWNT took come a bonus coming close to roughly $250,000 per player this year.
Interestingly enough, “The male players are paid when they play, but not when they sit,” says Michael McCann, a Sports Illustrated writer. “US men’s players must thus be on the roster to be pay eligible.”
There’s no question that there’s a huge gap in earning potential here. But is there more to the story than just pure sexism?
[Image credit: Pierre-Yves Beaudouin, CC BY-SA 4.0]