As the FIFA World Cup 2018 came to an end on Sunday, France returned back home not only as the new champions but also a lot richer than they were before coming to Russia for the football extravaganza. The talk has already shifted to Qatar, which is going to host the 2022 World Cup but wait, are we forgetting something? The next tournament is not in Qatar but in France – Women’s World Cup.
Football has a sexism problem and a baffling pay-dispute. FIFA promised the champions of Russia World Cup with $38 million in prize money while Croatia took home $28 million. And what did United States women, the 2015 World Cup champions take home? Only $2 million.
A study conducted by BBC in 2017 revealed that 83 percent of sports now pay men and women the same amount in prize money. However, football still remains one of the sports that has not taken a step towards reducing the pay disparity. Other than tennis and athletics, all sports fall back when it comes to equal pay among men and women athletes.
Here are two examples. While Lyon, best women football team in Europe, won the women’s Champions League last year to receive £219,920, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid earned a whopping £13.5m for taking the men’s Champions League title. There is no prize money for the winners of Women’s Super League while Manchester City were awarded with £149.44 million for claiming the 2017-18 Premier League title.
Reigning World Cup champions United States’ women goalkeeper Hope Solo advocated for equal pay and protested the biased approach by the governing sports body, saying, “We are the best in the world … and the men’s team get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”
The same is the case with cricket, both in India and the World. The winners of the men’s cricket World Cup are given £3.1m, compared to just £470,500 to women champions. The BCCI gives male players in Grade C category Rs 1 crore per annum while the female players – even after being in Grade A – are restricted to just Rs 50 lakhs.
The problem does not stop or start at just women receiving a fraction of pay compared to men. The issue is ingrained in the system’s very roots as the discrimination is reflected in the sports bodies’ casual attitude towards giving women equal coverage or respect.
Agreed that the revenue men competition generates is far higher than women. But that still does not justify why the sports authorities must pay women athletes only a fraction of what they pay to their men players. Even if the authorities give equal salaries to players of both gender, men will continue to take home a higher amount, thanks to riches they get from sponsorship and endorsement deals.
When FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke was asked about the pay disparity, he said that women will have to wait until the World Cup was in it’s 20th year before they could expect the same amount of money. Valcke said that the men’s World Cup ‘brings in $4.5bn direct to Fifa’ and it funds World Cups for youth national teams of both gender, as well as the futsal, beach soccer and club World Cups for men. “We have still another  World Cups before potentially women should receive the same amount as men. The men waited until 2014 to receive as much money as they received.”
Equal rights and pay is, however, not a lost cause, even when it comes to football. Positive changes in various corners of the world have brought in good news for those fighting for the cause for years. One of them is the Norway Football Association which forged an agreement between its male and female internationals to bring about parity.
The men gave away £50,700 for commercial activities to their female counterparts. The players’ union boss Joachim Walltin said, “Norway is a country where equal standing is very important for us, so I think it is good for the country and for the sport.”
The change needs to begin at the top for it to trickle down. If FIFA follows the example of Norway FC, many more female athletes will take up football as their career. With more players available to play, there will be more number of teams, matches, leagues and competition to capture the interest of fans. A higher footfall will generate higher revenue in the long run.
Having said that, this article should end the way every piece written on equality does. ‘There is still a long way to go.’