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 This argument was quickly withdrawn by the US Soccer Federation after a backlash so big that the president of US Soccer was forced to resign earlier this year, he claimed he had not read the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.
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.
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.
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.
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.