Sexism or Just Business?: US National Women’s Squad Loses Equal Pay Battle

18 May 2020 | Social Responsibility
Sexism or Just Business?: US National Women’s Squad Loses Equal Pay Battle
A US federal judge has dismissed submissions of unequal treatment and pay discrimination in the case of the US Women's National Team players vs the US Soccer Federation (USSF). The ruling comes as no surprise to football spectators around the world, and many are interpreting this as the notoriously sexist culture of football. Still, when analysing both genders in respect to sponsorship deals, viewership and a range of other financial factors and figures, is this a case of sexism or simply standard business?

Sport is renowned for being formed upon patriarchal foundations; such cultures are seen to seep into the games we’ve seen today. That isn’t to say we haven’t made incredible strides in the female fractions of the game.  

In particular to football, the boost of the women’s sport has graduated immensely in the last few years. Women’s football is now one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, with an established league system, governing bodies and competitions the game is deepening in respectability.

Though, a fragment where inequality is extremely apparent can be seen through player pay. The US National football team have brought a case to court claiming the conduction of misconduct of the USSF regarding the Equal Pay and Civil Rights Acts. 

Within the UK, the average FA WSL player, if offered a salary, acquires around £26,000 a year or less, whilst their Premier League counterparts are offered sums averaging at £61,000 a week for a first-team player. The US displays an average salary of $40,000 for female players, and a relatively higher sum of $352,992 per season according to the Global Sports Salaries Survey 2018.

The women’s national team condemned the USSF for pay discrimination as their male peers are paid remarkably higher wages and bonuses. The lawyers representing the women’s team broke down the pay gap through the statement "A comparison of the Women’s National Team (WNT) and Men’s National Team (MNT) pay shows that if each team played 20 friendlies in a year and each team won all twenty friendlies, female WNT players would earn a maximum of $99,000 or $4,950 per game, while similarly situated male MNT players would earn an average of $263,320 or $13,166 per game against the various levels of competition they would face." 

Moreover, "The pay for advancement through the rounds of the World Cup was so skewed that, in 2014, the USSF provided the MNT with performance bonuses totalling $5,375,000 for losing in the Round of 16, while, in 2015, the USSF provided the WNT with only $1,725,000 for winning the entire tournament."

A judge has decided to dismiss such claimed ruling in favour of the USSF. The main body of the case was dropped as the judge could not conclude any concrete evidence to determine foul play. Accounts showed an unstable relationship between the USSF and the WNT. 

The ruling also deciphered evidence of a rejected offer of the Collective Bargaining Agreement subjected to be paid in unison with the MNT.

High emotions can be understandable when the WMT has contributed to the immensely successful women’s football development pathway. With four World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals, they are the most victorious women's football team in history. 

However, the juxtaposition of figures for the men and women’s tournaments paint different pictures, especially in the nature of business, revenue production and the ability to disburse funds. 

The 2019 men’s World Cup in Russia generated $6 billion in returns, meanwhile, the 2019 Women’s World Cup produced roughly $131million in takings. This means that whilst less than 7% of the revenue total was used to pay-out all engaging men’s teams, more than 20% of the collected revenue was used to pay participating female teams.

Viewership numbers of the women’s game broke records in 2019, it rose by 22% since the last tournament with viewership numbers reaching more than 750 million viewers. Although, it’s yet to catch up to the men’s 3.2 billion spectators, the numbers for the Women’s World are certainly growing.

The cost of a player and the revenue of a sport can be determined by their ability to attract viewers and sponsors; therefore, the pay cannot be seen as sexism but plain and simple business. 

When comparing the 2 genders, it is evident the US women team outperforms the men through ranking, wins, viewership and notability. In spite of all this, men’s football is significantly popular.

The incredible earnings generated by the men’s world cup cannot yet be compared to the women’s game. Currently, the sport does not turn out the same degree of revenue as the men’s; consequently, salaries are in line with the income and more funding is focused into the teams/gender that has the capabilities to acquire greater ROI’s.

Although the judge dismissed the wage discrimination claim, he permitted allegations of discriminatory working conditions, including travel, housing and medical support bringing to light major unjust factors which are commonly overlooked for female players. The future cannot be predicted but it currently shows a growing platform for the women’s game which could be as productive as men's football. Increases in viewership, prize money, social media following and sponsorship and only grow with the popularity boost of the game.


Written by Tyra Wilson

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