USWNT vs USSF

Today we have a longform article from BootWizardBootReviews. I am very pleased to have worked with him on this, though he deserves all of the credit for the hard work on writing this and the research for it. Find his YouTube Channel by clicking here and his Instagram by clicking here. I also highly recommend you watch his video that accompanies this piece. Click here to watch!

For those outside the USA or anyone who doesn’t take an active interest in women’s football, you might have missed this story which has potentially huge ramifications for US Soccer and for the women’s and men’s football world in general. The US Women’s National Team (USWNT) is suing the US Soccer Federation (USSF) over equal pay and conditions in a gender discrimination suit. What will become apparent as we work through the details of this landmark case is not only could this have real ramifications for US Soccer, but also for the Men’s and Women’s football world in general. However not only that, as we really dive deeper into this, we may find that there is a bigger issue at play here beyond which of these two parties is right.

In 2019 the USWNT brought a class action lawsuit against US Soccer for pay based on institutionalized gender discrimination. The USWNT claim that they are paid less than the men’s team, they receive worse treatment than the men’s team with regards to flights, accommodation, and training facilities, and despite this, they continue to outperform the men. They are claiming damages of $67 million USD.

The case moved to court with the USSF looking for a summary judgement in early 2020. The Soccer Federation’s defence was initially based on two things. The first and most controversial is that there are no grounds for a gender discrimination suit because the men are faster, bigger and stronger and therefore the jobs performed by the men and women are significantly different. This argument was quickly withdrawn by the US Soccer Federation after a backlash so big that the president of US Soccer was forced to resign earlier this year, he claimed he had not read the argument that was due to be put forward by the federation’s legal team.

With that defence removed, the federation’s legal team is leaning heavily on the CBA or collective bargaining agreements that the men’s and women’s teams have. Each team is represented by different unions who negotiate on their behalf to the soccer federation for pay and conditions. There is a vast difference between the CBA’s and therefore how the men’s and women’s teams are paid. It’s important to note, each team agreed to and signed their respective CBA’s.

That brings us onto the collective bargaining agreements and how the teams are actually paid. We will look at each CBA outside of FIFA prize money stipulations.

The men’s CBA is a 100% pay as you play deal. They earn no money if they are not called up to the squad.
The men’s team earn:
$5000 for a loss to a team outside the FIFA top 25
$9375 for a win against a team outside the FIFA top 25
$1.50 goes to the men in a pool distributed to players for every ticket sold to their games with no mention of TV revenues.

The women’s CBA is more complicated as it is not solely based on a pay as you play structure.
17 players, reducing to 16 in 2021, receive full-time contracts with a salary of $100,000 per year, these players are paid no matter what, even if they don’t get called up or miss out through injury.
Any players called up outside of the contracted 17 are paid based on a pay as you play scheme similar to the men, earning between $3500 and $4000 per call up depending on seniority.
The women receive nothing for a loss.
And $5,250 for a win vs a team outside the FIFA top 8.
The women’s CBA includes multiple benefits or securities not included in the men’s CBA such as severance pay, medical insurance, maternity pay, childcare and relocation stipends.
$1.50 goes into a pool distributed to the players for every ticket sold to their games, plus 7.5% of every ticket sold over 17,000, a bonus should the game be a sellout and the potential to earn TV-based bonuses if the viewership by network increases by 10% or more year on year.

There is also terminology in the women’s CBA that implies should the men negotiate a better deal around ticket sales and viewership in their new CBA, the women’s CBA will be adjusted to match.

The women’s CBA also negotiates minimum and maximum salaries for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The USSF is the primary source of salary payments for players representing clubs in the NWSL, including but not limited to paying annual salaries of on average $65,000 for 22 ‘tier 1’ and ‘tier 2’ US players in the league that are selected by the US national team head coach. This is of course very different from the system used in the MLS where the federation does not fund any salary payments. This doesn’t factor into the equal pay debate as strongly as other elements however is worth mentioning with regards to the lack of support argument being put forward by the USWNT.

In order to directly compare the two CBA’s there is a popular 20 game comparison that is being used across the media, and from a basic level, it makes sense. It goes like this;
Should the men’s and women’s teams both play 20 friendly games in a season and lose all of them then they would have parity on pay, each player from each team would earn $100,000 + ticket revenue.

If you switched that up and had a 20 game season where both teams won all their games then there would be a pay disparity of a minimum of 11%, the women would be paid 11% less than the men for competing in and winning the same number of games. It is my opinion that this is a pay gap that should not exist, It also, in my opinion, invalidates the USSF argument that between 2015 and 2016 the women’s team were paid more. The USSF claim in that time period the women earned a total of 24.5 million dollars compared to the men’s 18.5 million. If both teams had played the same amount of games and performed equally, which should be the measuring stick, the men would have earned more.

However, it’s still not that simple, but it does bring us to where we are today.

At the start of the month, the USWNT had part of their case against the USSF dismissed, a summary judgement by a federal judge that found that the USWNT are not paid less than the USMNT.

The ruling by Judge R. Gary Klausner is based on the women’s CBA which we have already covered. The women negotiated and signed the CBA, therefore, agreeing to the terms within it, it is therefore not the fault of the USSF that the women are in cases, like the 20 game example cited earlier, earning less money. Judge R. Gary Klausner also stated that the USWNT did not prove wage discrimination under the Equal Pay Act because they played more games and made more money than the men’s team, he also refers to evidence that the women rejected a CBA that would have the same pay as you play structure as the men’s CBA. It should be noting that he agreed that the USWNT were provided with poorer facilities, as evidenced here.

Some of the conditions the USWNT has had to put with are a disgrace.

The facts the Judge used to make his ruling are undeniable, although It is expected that the women will appeal this decision.

With regards to the section of the ruling concerning the CBA I would expect the women to contend that while it is without a doubt that they were offered a pay as you play style deal, they were not offered that deal with the same terms as the men. Therefore, they negotiated for a more security-based deal. If this is the case and equal pay was never offered by the USSF then the argument that the women gave up the right to equal pay by signing the alternative CBA is null and void. If equal pay was not on the table, as it was never offered, the USSF can still be found at fault.

Finding that the USWNT did not prove wage discrimination because they played more games and made more money is puzzling to me. If you and I worked the same job, but you worked 10 extra hours and performed with greater success, you would expect to be paid more to do that, and on a fair incremental scale. If you did not, irrespective of gender I would expect that to be considered wage discrimination.

Not even including the fact the men didn’t even make it to the World Cup

Which kind of brings us to where we are now, awaiting the next step from those that represent the USWNT, it also brings me to my own final point which is where I think that the true problem lies.

However, it is not something that is easily woven into the USWNT vs USSF debate, as this concerns FIFA and its value, promotion, prize money and funding of the Women’s World Cup.

Aside from the argument that women don’t run as fast and aren’t as strong which we already dismissed as blatant sexism, the next biggest argument that I hear against women earning the same as their male counterparts is that they don’t generate the same amount of money in ticket sales and TV rights. We can take this argument and apply it to FIFA World Cup prize money. The prize pool for the FIFA women’s world cup $30 million, the prize pool for the men’s World Cup $400 million. In simple terms, the women’s pool is approximately 7.5% of the men’s or, the men’s is 13 times larger. Therefore, logically the women must generate 13x less revenue than the men over the course of a World Cup.

Let’s see if we can prove that one way or the other, and we will start by dispelling a myth. Forbes once alleged the Women’s World Cup generated $131 million dollars in revenue while the men’s generated $6 billion. This was a report from a very reputable source, so it was picked up and used by many media outlets including ESPN (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6S50zMnalY), and The Washington Post, among others. It has become something of a stick to beat women’s football and the equal pay dispute with. The problem is that the figures are incorrect, the Wall Street Journal conducted its own report (https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-is-the-womens-world-cup-worth-not-even-fifa-knows-11569335578), finding that the $131 million number was the cost of expenses for the Women’s World Cup, not the revenue and the assistant managing editor of Forbes had simply read a chart wrong, Forbes has since admitted this mistake and removed the erroneous article.

So, if those numbers aren’t correct what do we know. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as 2 numbers we can be thrown together and compared. FIFA claimed they made $5.4 billion dollars in revenue from the 2018 World Cup, however FIFA themselves have admitted they do not know if that is actually accurate, and the likelihood is that it’s not.

This is because the World Cup TV rights deals see FIFA sell the men’s, youth and women’s tournaments sold off together as a bundle. While it is probable that many networks – especially outside the US – are likely more willing to pay additional for the men’s tournament, the amount cannot be known. Inside the USA it is different again, the women’s World Cup final from 2019 outdrew the men’s for 2018, even the Fox Sports network claimed they were not sure how they would split the value of the two tournaments because of the USWNT success. It just so happens that FIFA takes the revenue from TV rights sales and solely allocates it as income for the men’s World Cup, because (probably corrupt) reasons.

Sepp may be gone but the corrupt orginisation remains.

Even if there isn’t an accurate revenue figure to report there are many things we can compare in order to try and justify the $370 million prize pool gap.

We can start with an important metric, the TV viewing audience. According to FIFA the men’s World Cup in 2014 was viewed by 3.2 billion people. In comparison the women’s World Cup in 2015 was viewed by 764 million, meaning the men’s tournament was viewed by 4 times more people. Nowhere near the difference of 13 times needed to justify the difference between the prize pools.

In terms of ticket sales for the 2 most recent FIFA World Cups. The men’s tournament in 2018 sold 2.9 million tickets, the women sold 38% of that amount in 2019 with 1.1 million. Again, nowhere near justifying the fact that the women’s prize pool is 7.5% of the men’s.

The USSF distributes the FIFA prize money to each team differently. The USWNT receives 100% of the money they win, the men only receive 60%, yet much of the $64 million the USWNT is claiming in damages comes as a result of the FIFA prize money gap from the last 2 world cup cycles. The question now is; is it the responsibility of the USSF to bridge the financial gap between the USWNT and USMNT that is caused by the discrepancy in FIFA prize money.

While the USSF is certainly not perfect and their initial defence tactic was horribly out of touch, the bigger enemy when it comes to equal pay is FIFA. If the USWNT were to win this case and get all the damages they are seeking it would likely bankrupt the USSF, while FIFA, on the other hand, have the resources and the funds to enact real change and yet they continue to discredit the women’s game. In 1999 the US hosted the WWC at great risk and proved there was an appetite for the women’s game despite FIFA’s private and sometimes public opinions. Yet in over 20 years since then, even with drastically evolved sentiments on the women’s game, FIFA’s opinions and approach to the female side of the beautiful game do not seem to have evolved alongside the rest of the world.

They seem most interested in hoarding cash, as evidenced here and here.

Though admittedly there are finally using it. Shouldn’t take a global crisis to do so.

This includes the most recent Women’s World Cup, which I attended in France. The football was fantastic, the atmospheres amazing and the fans were incredible. However, the promotion and organisation of the tournament were both shambolic. At the time I criticised France in a vlog, although, it seems my criticism was misplaced, and the problems once again fell mostly at the feet of FIFA. They culminated in something that in my opinion showed a true disrespect for the women’s game; not hosting the final in Paris and hosting it in a secondary stadium in Lyon. The Groupama Stadium is home of arguably one of the world’s greatest football teams, but it should not have been the venue for the spectacle of a sold-out World Cup final that could have filled the Parc De Princes.

What are your thoughts on the USSF vs USWNT debate? Should FIFA be doing more to help fund the women’s game? Please share with this your friends and make sure to follow both GaijinBootBlog and BootWizardBootReviews on Instagram.

じゃあね!

aglockhart

8 thoughts on “USWNT vs USSF

  1. Hello both, lovely and well-researched article, appreciate the time taken to put this up! Allow me to share a different perspective which I think may fill in some of the gaps and explain some of the points you have made.

    I think its also important to preface that while I have great sympathy for the USWNT as well as female footballers in general, it is the same sympathy that I reserve for lower league players who have play football while working a different job, or with healthcare nurses who don’t earn the same amounts as doctors. That is that there are circumstances beyond their control which explain why its illogical to look at equal pay.

    First off – the big one.

    At the end of the day, the facts remain that women are not as quick or strong as men. I think it would be disingenuous to state otherwise, and I think it does everyone a disservice to try and argue that point – the example of the Williams’ sisters jump to mind. But as I like to return the question – so what?

    Jack Grealish (100k) isn’t as quick and strong as Adama Traore (43k), yet earns much more than him? Why is that? Racism? Nah. If we recognise that there are other factors beyond “physical attributes”, then that shouldn’t be a stick to beat women with.

    Let’s not look at women not being quick and strong as men as a reason, but as part of an explanation as to why their perceived value is not as high as their male counterparts. simply put, the action they provide on pitch is not as exciting TO A VAST MAJORITY of people – one which we can easily quantify by looking at the viewership and stats between the World Cup and Women’s World Cup.

    I’d argue if anything it is this PERCEIVED VALUE that is the enemy here and the best way to help women is this, rather than artificial means such as a pay raise.

    Let’s take the CBA for example. The hard facts is that the USWNT thought that they had negotiated a better deal with their new pay structure, which provided financial security. Would they have sued had they not won the WWC and realised that they would have earned more on the older deal? Probably not.

    Digging deeper though, why were the men not bothered with financial security? Because they work differently, they get paid enough from their normal salary from their CLUBS. For me the root issue is there – the women’s teams and clubs aren’t well funded, or supported enough to provide them with a normal salary. Again this comes down to the same issues that plague lower league teams – lack of perceived value for investors or enough fans to help generate enough revenue for the club.

    As to James point about “If you and I worked the same job, but you worked 10 extra hours and performed with greater success, you would expect to be paid more to do that, and on a fair incremental scale.” Well. If you worked as an accountant with Nike, would you expect to earn more the same as you would at Under Armour, keeping things like experience etc equal? Probably not, considering what both brands bring to the table.

    James also brings up interesting points about the FIFA and the world Cup. Now I’m not even going to bother debating about FIFA’s corruption because facts lol. But I think there are much simpler explanations regarding the World Cup.

    I think there’s no other way of spinning it, FIFA more than likely packages the World Cup rights for men’s, youth and women’s teams because if packaged alone the women’s and youth teams would probably get laughable amounts – again because of perceived value. I think its also for this reason that I think its not correct to try and use the difference in prize money to make direct comparisons in prize pool.

    Put differently – The Premier League TV rights cost 9.2 billion pounds (10.24 euros thereabouts) nearly double of what La Liga earned (4.48b euros). Is Premier League twice as good as La Liga? Even taking apart the very apocryphal you’d be hard pressed to argue so. The simple reason is that Premier League has done an excellent job at marketing themselves such that they’ve been able to constantly increase their revenue which leads to investors looking to invest more into them.

    So while James has a point that the men’s tournament was only viewed by 4 times more people than the female game, it is equally plausible that the simple answer is that investors were more willing to put in $3 or $4 per viewer eyeball as compared to $1 per women’s game. This is also not taking into account that WWC was shown free in some countries such as UK I believe on BBC, which will undoubtedly inflate those viewership numbers.

    Circling back to facilities, again I’m not defending the lack of it. But the fact of the matter is that hosting a World Cup is expensive business and more often than not, do not make economical sense. That cost is also not undertaken by FIFA, but by the host country. It’s a weak argument, but again, the lack of perceived value for the men’s game, and by contrast the female game, means that countries tend not to want to invest in as much into the facilities.

    Which circles me back to my initial point. Women’s football has a problem with perceived value and again, its not an issue limited to females – men’s football also has that in varying levels. I understand that the UK Government stops televised games from happening beyond a certain time to prevent it from cannibalising lower league football attendances. Even Chelsea and Man City, who pumped in money to artificially increase the value of their club took time for them to create new fans and bring in the appropriate level of investment. An alternative example to look at is the WNBA, who despite being funded by the NBA have yet to turn in a profit and often struggle with attendances – blanket funding quite clearly isn’t the answer here.

    To just blanket women’s football wage issues as sexism without exploring these factors sits uncomfortably with me, especially from friends whom I respect for their football knowledge and understanding of current issues. I do love that this is a topic that has been brought up because to me, marketing plays an important role in these things.
    Everytime we talk about female football or footballers in general for their quality of play, Nike giving them bespoke kits and putting them at the front, instead of calling DS a signature boot for Miranda Kerr and then disappearing, all of these help to put them on the map and raise their value.

    For me that’s probably the more long-term way of doing things – how can we best raise the perceived value of women in the eyes of the everyday public? Would having shorter games help to keep up energy levels and exciting football? Smaller goal posts and pitches to allow for more goals and quicken the pace of the game? Can we splash these athletes on sports websites and brand marketing to raise awareness? These are all great questions to ask and for me, do much much more for the game than polarising the grounds with lawsuits over contracts that are signed and agreed upon, and give unnecessary ammunition to naysayers.

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    1. Sorry fr leaving this separately, but I seem to have lost a paragraph. Regarding James’ point about ticket sales.

      I think there’s 2 factors to it:

      1) Its Russia vs France. Its more than likely people are more comfortable to enter France than Russia due to a variety of reasons that are not limited to tourism attractions.

      2) Cost: The cost of a Cat 3 Group Stage ticket for the Men’s world cup cost 105 USD ~ 95 euros. in contrast, the cost of a Cat 3 FINALS ticket for the WWC was 84 euros. A Cat 3 ticket at WWC Group stage cost 14 euros, about 7 times. And this increase only gets higher when get further in the competition (84 euros vs 991 euros for respective Cat 1 final tickets).

      For simplicity, let us assume ceteris paribus, that the difference between both tickets are 7 times and that the women’s game sold half as many tickets as the men did (instead of 38% as James mentioned), then I believe that difference in prize money is much more easily answered and is definitely not the 7.5% mentioned in the article.

      As to James point about holding it at the Parc de Princes, the average entry level ticket alone there costs 109 euros thereabouts, in contrast the Cat 3 ticket for the finals was 44 euros, a 50% difference. As I previously mentioned, FIFA does not cover these costs and I gather its understandable why France may have held it in a smaller stadium due to various issues such as costs (bigger stadium, stewards etc!) etc. Unfortunately, economics play a part!

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      1. And two your point about tickets.

        1. Yeah – you’re spot on. I imagine sales for Qatar will be far lower than expectations since not a whole lot of people are allowed to legally exist there and you can’t even be drunk in public.

        2.Economics does play a massive part – and I would suggest that tickets for the men’s World Cup should be more on par on what they charge for the women’s but I know perceived value, etc. But too many people are getting fleeced as it is. And I still think that the prize money should be higher since the Women’s World Cup might be the only decent payday some of these players get. I know you can’t just randomly inflate the prize money, but again, FIFA should be doing more to help out.

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    2. I want to first say that you have brought up some excellent points. For me personally, I think arguing about the whole “bigger+stronger” thing distracts from more important stuff. Unfortunately, this has been used as a stick to beat down the women with without looking at other factors. One of the biggest ones that you bring up is perceived value and I think you are spot on about that point. The perceived value of the women’s game isn’t high enough and there needs to be much better marketing used when it comes to the women’s side. I would argue that part of that is FIFA’s job to expand the game in every direction and touching on one of James’ points, I don’t think FIFA have done a good job in that aspect.

      You’re argument about Grealish and Traore is a good point as well. And you are right. Men have far more security because of their club salaries. If you think about it, there are a lot of examples of male players turning down playing for their national team or being “injured” so they can’t play in international matches. Because of that security that you mentioned, men can do this with no issues. For women international players, they don’t really have that luxury (outside of the 17 women who get guaranteed wages from the USSF no matter what) so in a way they are somewhat trapped. Even if they are injured or have extenuating circumstances, many players need all the income they can get.

      The whole point about getting paid the same for the same work may seem like a weird example, but I’m not sure comparing companies to companies is a good idea. It’s not what you’d make at Nike versus Under Armour but rather what you would make as a manager at Nike if you’re a woman rather than a man. It’s more like working for the same company, since both the men and women receive money from the same place.

      A point about viewership numbers in places like the UK where matches are shown for free more often, this is slightly off topic but more matches should be shown on TV as it is because many countries are beginning to have viewership dropping but these numbers rise whenever they’re shown on terrestrial TV. So, more Prem matches on the BBC etc.

      Anyways, back on point. Again, you’re spot on about the perceived value. And you might be right about the women’s and youth tourneys making far less money on their individual TV deals but unfortunately this is all just conjecture since FIFA is very smoke and mirrors when it comes to their finances. They have a massive treasure chest and should surely do more to prop up and market the Women’s World Cup and make it less of a burden on the host countries.

      Your last few questions are excellent. You’re right, your whole thesis about how to make perceived value greater in the women’s game is really good and I agree it’s something we all need to figure out how to do better. Like your example with Kerr and Nike, the biggest companies could do much better as well so it’s not just on FIFA, the other companies need to step up as well.

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      1. regarding “The whole point about getting paid the same for the same work may seem like a weird example, but I’m not sure comparing companies to companies is a good idea. It’s not what you’d make at Nike versus Under Armour but rather what you would make as a manager at Nike if you’re a woman rather than a man. It’s more like working for the same company, since both the men and women receive money from the same place.”

        My bad, here’s a little more clarity. I think we’re looking at it differently.

        While we can argue that the USWNT is doing a better job by winning the WC than the MNT. The pie that they’re winning is different, again going back to the revenue generated by both tournament, Which is why my example refers to 2 people in different companies (male or female) with similar qualities. Nike and Under Armour are both in the sports apparel business, but other factors apart from how well you do your job also affect your compensation.

        A sales person at UA may hit his target of 10%, but their overall sales is undoubtedly lower than a Nike sales person who may hit the same 10% or lower. My issue was with the way his argument was framed i guess.

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      2. Thanks for clarifying. I understand where you are coming from but for me they’re still technically working for the same company in a way.

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      3. Thanks again for taking time to respond.

        Re: FIFA needing to do more. I’ve heard a convincing argument that if FIFA can give tons of money to the likes of Guam etc (who probably will not appear in a World Cup anytime soon) to “promote football”, they can do so for female football, which I’ll be honest, I do agree.

        W regards to paying more to support the host country, idk chicken and egg thing i guess. for me I can see an argument that the money would be better spent upgrading facilities for the respective country associations so they can train in better facilities. but that’s not as relevant. Point is FIFA can do more, brands can do more. we just need to help them find that market.

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      4. Yeah exactly spot on about FIFA giving money to Guam but not doing as much for the Women’s game.
        I think FIFA and the brands needing to do more hits the nail on the head. They have the cash but they always halfheartedly do it. Even in 2015 when Nike first said they were going to have a big explosion in advertising ahead of the tournament, the pack came out and just…nothing. The apparel made to tie in with the footwear was awful to so there was almost no connection to the boots.

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