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Should Male Footballers Be Paid More Than Women?

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3.67K   //    Timeless

US women's football team at the 2015 World Cup
US women's football team at the 2015 World Cup

Football, for years, was seen by many as a gender-neutral sport, with football fanatics turning up in their thousands to watch a game. However, a year after the female sport achieved its largest-ever attendance in 1920 of over 50,000 fans, the FA (Football Association) banned the women’s game after claiming that football was ‘quite unsuitable for females’. The ban that meant women’s teams could no longer play at the grounds of its member clubs, was eventually lifted in 1971, but the sport has struggled to reach its previous heights since.

In January 2018, the FA released new plans to help rebuild the women’s sport and close the gap on the male game. Although, with the men’s sport now worth over £22 billion in Europe, many people don’t believe the female game will ever be able to compete with the financial powerhouse of the male sport. However, with the billion-pound male industry coming under threat from the rebirth of the female game, people have voiced their disbelief over the outrageous wage gap in football. 

In 2017, a salary survey released by Sporting Intelligence highlighted the true extent of gender inequality in football. The survey revealed that the wage gap in football is larger than that of business, politics and medicine, with the average female player in England earning around £27,000 a year, compared to the average annual wage of a Premier League male player estimated to be in the region of £2.5 million. 

But, as the ‘beautiful’ game comes under further scrutiny for its huge wage gap, many football fans and players alike believe the wage gap isn’t evidence of corruption in the game and instead just highlights the astronomical difference in popularity. 

Figures released by the FA in 2018 portray the gaping difference in fan base, with the Premier League averaging just under 38,000 more spectators than a WSL (Women’s Super League) game last season. The Premier League’s average attendance was 38,500, whereas the women’s top division averaged 953 – an 11% drop from the previous year. 

The huge difference in attendance has had a major impact on the financial state of both sports, with the women’s game once again ending up on the suffering side. Whereas the majority of club owners are making record-breaking profits from the male teams, most women teams have consistently made them a loss for the past 4 seasons.  

Arsenal, one of the best-established women’s teams in the world, have made a total loss of £420,000 between 2014 to 2017. £264,000 of that was lost in 2017 alone, compared to the £25.1 million profit for the men’s team. 

When questioned, former Arsenal and Scotland international Suzanne Winters said that she felt that the wage difference is down to the difference in revenue. 

“The female game doesn’t generate the same [amount of] money that the men’s do i.e. ticket sales, merchandise, fans etc.” 

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Winters also highlighted that she felt the difference in ticket price would have had one of the biggest effects on the total turnover for football clubs each season. The ticket prices to watch an Arsenal men’s game costs a substantial amount more than that of a women’s ticket, with tickets varying from £3 to £6 to watch a women’s game in comparison to the £8 to £97 to attend a men’s game. It, therefore, comes as no surprise to see the men’s team turnover is drastically higher. 

However, Winters felt that the pricing of tickets was fair due to the huge difference in total audience and didn’t think it was just because of the gender the players were.  

“I think it’s cheaper to originally attract fans along and change their perception of women’s football. The men’s teams can charge what they do because they know they fill the stadiums.”

Nevertheless, she seemed to lose positivity about the prospect of wages ever being equal. 

“The wage gap is clear, and I think it will always be there, I wish it wasn’t and I speak in general for all women in any job.”

In fact, Winters saying the gap was clear, could be regarded as a huge understatement with the difference between the top earners in either sport a staggering £83.7 million. 

Orlando Pride forward, Alex Morgan, is the highest paid women’s footballer in the world, making an estimated £2.7 million per year from wages and endorsements with the likes of Nike, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s to name just a few.

Despite being the women’s leading footballer in terms of money, she is still miles off the top earners in the male’s sport. In fact, Morgan earns only 3.15% of the sport’s top earner and Barcelona legend Lionel Messi’s total income; with Messi earning an astonishing £86.4 million a year.

But with many people claiming this huge gap is purely because of their genders would be mistaken. In fact, player wages are given to players reflecting their value to their team and with the top male players gaining larger sponsorship deals than female players due to the larger fan base for the male sport, it’s all just a matter of financial gain.

And if we have learnt anything from sporting history, then if one-day women’s football has a wider audience then the male game, then female players would find their wages soaring above the males. This is because players are paid to play well and advertise their club as proven in the Pogba transfer deal in 2016. 

Pogba was bought to United for a then world record transfer fee of £89 million, making headlines globally about the size of the transfer fee. However, what most people weren’t aware of is that United actually made an astounding £190 million from Pogba shirt sales in just three weeks, giving United a £101 million profit on the player in under a month. 

Therefore, with men clubs more than doubling the average attendance for a women’s game and recording record high profits, is it really a surprise to see the wage gap ever expanding? And with only a mere 0.4% of all sport sponsorship deals going towards female sports, it’s no wonder the sporting world is more divided than ever before.

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