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Gender Pay Gap In Sports Goes Beyond The Field

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On 7th July 2019, America once again was in the limelight, but it had nothing to do with their Trump Government or its policies. It was the United States Women’s National Soccer team that had their hands, rather their feet, in making the world take note of their calibre!
Stad de Lyon had witnessed, what can easily be described, as one of the most triumphant moments in sporting history. But the celebration was short lived, due to their never-ending fight for unequal pay!
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup held in France is being hailed as a watershed moment for women’s football. The U.S. women’s national soccer team made history this July, by claiming their fourth overall and second consecutive Women’s World Cup title. According to BBC, the broadcaster of the Women’s World Cup, the semi-final between England and USA drew 11.7 million viewers, making it the network’s most-watched television program of the year. TV ratings for women’s soccer also set records in countries whose teams moved to the knockout stage, including France, Brazil and Italy.
Do these numbers startle you? Wait till you read the zeroes on their paycheque.
A report suggested that a player could receive up to $200,000 as bonus if the team becomes a world champion. However, for a similar feat, a member of the US men’s national team could potentially earn $1.1 Million.
Women’s soccer has suffered for a while now. This is due to a lack of interest, smaller investments and lack of awareness for the game. The World Cup provided a platform for these women to show their displeasure towards gender pay-gap that has long inundated women’s soccer, and was brought into the spotlight once again during this World Cup.
The reason for this disparity is unknown. Or is it truly? What is surprising is that the largest source of Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) revenue for its various World Cup events: broadcast rights and sponsorships is sold as a bundle for both these categories for all editions of the World Cup, including youth versions.
David Neal, the Head of Fox Sports’ World Cup coverage, in an interview admitted that the broadcaster hadn’t assigned a specific value to each tournament. Furthermore, the U.S. women’s soccer games have generated more revenue for the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) than their male counterparts over the last three years.
Another surprising, but not a relatively new fact is that even sponsorships from apparel giants like Nike get shared between the men’s and the women’s teams. 2019 also saw the women’s stadium home jersey become the top-selling soccer jersey ever sold on Nike.com in a single season.
Whatever might be the reason for the disparity, we know that the U.S. women’s soccer team’s fight does not end with this win. This cuts across all sport, for all female athletes; who are made to believe that they aren’t at par with their counterparts, and should, therefore, deserve to be paid less.
This isn’t the first time women have had to fight for their rights. Billie Jean King, a legend of the game of tennis, was the pioneer in the late 70’s and early 80’s who fought for equal rights for women in tennis. King is an advocate for gender equality and has long been a crusader for equality and social justice. Most renowned for her ‘Battle of Sexes’ match against Bobby Riggs, she was also the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association.
She was the first prominent woman athlete to admit her homosexuality. King lost her endorsements but became a torchbearer for the LGBT community and continued fighting for women’s rights in sport in a similar fashion as the United States Women’s National Soccer Team is fighting currently.
Closer home, Dipika Pallikal, an extremely distinguished professional squash player, who at one point in time was ranked 10th worldwide, faced a similar struggle. Aghast by the disparity in remuneration between male and female squash players at the National Championship, she decided to boycott the tournament. Between 2012 and 2015, she refused to participate in the event, eventually succeeding in her endeavour, and marking an important milestone in the Indian Sporting ecosystem.
Exemplary fights of these women have helped to pave the way for future women athletes and, inspired young girls to chase their dreams. The day of the Women’s football World Cup finals, 57,900 supporters at Stad de Leon witnessed the prowess of these women who had an exemplary fight to display. A fight which goes beyond the field, and one which will hopefully help to change the narrative of the game in the coming days.

The author, Sanjeev Anand, is Country Head – Commercial Banking and in-charge of Sports Vertical, IndusInd Bank and an avid sports enthusiast.

Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.