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Female footballers and funding
The US women’s national team has filed a complaint alleging that the US Soccer Federation engages in wage discrimination. The complaint states that members of the women’s national team are paid less than their male counterparts. Let us now address some important questions about this complaint.
- Is this a lawsuit?
- No. The players have filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging wage discrimination.
- What is wage discrimination?
- Wage discrimination is paying different types of people different amounts for the same work.
- What is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission?
- The EEOC is a US agency that is responsible for enforcing workplace discrimination laws.
- So in this case, what law applies?
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 states that employers cannot pay employees of one gender less for equal work than those of the other, unless it is based upon seniority, merit, production, or another factor.
- So are players on the US women’s national team paid less than those on the men’s team?
- How much less?
- That is a complicated question.
- Okay, well, let’s start at the beginning. How much are the women paid?
- Players on the USWNT receive a salary of US$36,000 to US$72,000 per year from US Soccer.
- Wait, don’t most male players make, like, millions of dollars?
- No. The male players do not receive a salary from US Soccer.
- But they get salaries from their clubs, right?
- Yes. In MLS, for example, the maximum salary for non-designated players is US$457,500.
- Are the USMNT players who are in MLS all designated?
- No. Nick Rimando, for example, drew a salary of US$350,000 from Real Salt Lake last year, according to the MLS Players Union. Gyasi Zardes, who led the national team with 19 caps last year, drew a salary of US$150,000 from the LA Galaxy last year.
- What about the female players? What do they earn from their clubs?
- All USWNT players who played in the NWSL [which includes the entire 2015 Women’s World Cup squad other than Abby Wambach] earned a salary of US$54,000 last year if they were already in the USWNT when the NWSL started in 2013. Those who weren’t earned US$44,000 last year.
- So that’s a maximum total of US$126,000 per year. Even Zardes made more than that.
- Yes, but that’s the total base salary from club and country. Both men and women can also be paid for national team appearances.
- Okay, well, how much would that be?
- Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl has compiled the relevant figures.
- I don’t feel like reading the whole thing.
- Really? It’s just a table.
- Well, could you summarise it for me?
- Fine. The key inequalities are:
- The men earn a minimum of US$5,000 per friendly. The women earn a maximum of US$1,350 per friendly – and that’s only if they win. If they draw or lose, they are not paid.
- Whilst they are on international duty, the men earn a per diem of US$62.50 within the US, or US$75 internationally. The women earn US$50 within the US, or US$60 internationally.
- Okay, well, what about the World Cup? The women won it last year. Did they get a bonus?
- Yes, they got US$15,000 for making the squad and US$75,000 for winning the title.
- That’s pretty good.
- Maybe, but the men get US$68,500 for making the World Cup squad.
- Wow. What if they win it?
- That’s awfully optimistic of you.
- Hypothetically, if the US somehow won the 2018 Men’s World Cup, they would receive “US$9,375,000 to team player pool”.
- What would that be per player?
- Assuming fifty players in the pool, that would be an average of US$187,500 per player.
- Wait, ‘team player pool’? So players who are not even on the World Cup squad would get that too?
- We don’t know exactly how it would be divided. But still, at US$75,000 for each of the 23 players in the Women’s World Cup squad, that’s a total of US$1,725,000.
- That’s, what, 18% of what the men would earn if they won?
- Yes. But keep in mind that that US$1,725,000 is almost all of the US$2,000,000 prize money that US Soccer got from FIFA for winning the Women’s World Cup. Germany’s prize for winning the 2014 Men’s World Cup was US$35,000,000.
- You mean FIFA gives more than seventeen times as much money to the Men’s World Cup champion as it does to the Women’s? So it’s FIFA’s fault.
- No. Remember what we said about friendlies and per diems? That money does not come from FIFA. That’s US Soccer’s own money.
- Okay, well, that’s an interesting question. How much money do the men’s and women’s teams bring in for US Soccer?
- According to the minutes from US Soccer’s 2016 Annual General Meeting, in the fiscal year ending THU 31 MAR 2016, the USMNT was projected to earn total revenues of US$21,047,216. During the same period, the USWNT’s projected revenue was US$3,212,479 from the Women’s World Cup and US$23,570,326 from other events, for a total of US$26,782,805.
- You mean the women brought in more money?
- In fiscal year 2016, yes.
- What about previous years?
- Here are the figures from the last four years:
|Women’s World Cup
|Men’s World Cup
- So over the last four years, the men brought in 65% more money than the women.
- So they should get paid more.
- The women should be paid the same.
- What are you talking about? Did you not look at that table?
- Men and women should receive the same pay for friendlies and qualifiers, the same per diem whilst on international duty, the same share of ticket revenues, and the same appearance fee for sponsor events.
- Because it’s the right thing to do.
- Says who?
- Says us here at GoobNet. Also, basic standards of fairness and human decency. And don’t forget about the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
- So you’re saying that it’s actually illegal for US Soccer to pay the women less?
- In the case of friendlies, per diem, ticket revenues, and appearance fees, yes. Those are all cases in which the male and female players are doing equal work that requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and that is performed under similar working conditions.
- What about the exceptions to the law?
- Seniority and merit obviously do not apply, because the more senior players do not receive more, nor do starters earn more than bench players. The third exception, compensation “by quantity or quality of production”, actually works in the women’s favour: by any measure [3-0 World Cups, 4-0 Olympic gold medals, 1-4 best ever FIFA ranking, 2-36 worst ever FIFA ranking], the USWNT has a higher quality of production than the men.
- But the last exception is pretty vague.
- Yes. It states that women can be paid subject to “a differential based on any other factor other than sex”. However, it is hard to find a factor that justifies paying the women so much less for friendlies, or for a reduced per diem, or for a reduced share of ticket revenues, or for smaller appearance fees.
- But men’s friendlies bring in more money, according to your table.
- So shouldn’t men get more money for playing in friendlies?
- No. Note that the men receive US$5,000 for playing in a friendly, no matter what: if they lose, if it is not on television, even if nobody shows up. There is no reason not to extend the same courtesy to the women.
- But you said the female players are salaried.
- So they are. The USWNT played a total of 28 matches over the fiscal year ending THU 31 MAR 2016. For a player earning the maximum salary of US$72,000, that would still work out to only US$2,571 per match on a prorated basis.
- But not all of them were friendlies.
- Yes, but the women are not paid anything more for appearing in competitive matches.
- Not even if they win?
- That’s fucked up.
- But still, having a salary offsets that.
- It’s supposed to, yes.
- You’re saying it doesn’t?
- Yes. If you weight a friendly half as much as a competitive match, that US$72,000 salary works out to US$1,800 for each of the sixteen friendlies and US$3,600 for each of the twelve competitive matches. Including the US$1,350 for winning a friendly [the USWNT won thirteen of those sixteen friendlies, drew two, and lost one], that is a total of US$3,150 per friendly, which pales in comparison to the US$5,000 or more available to the men.
- But the point remains. Shouldn’t the revenue that comes in be shared with the players? And since the men bring in more revenue, shouldn’t they get more of it?
- The women should receive the same share of gate receipts. Even if their pie is smaller, they should receive the same slice of it.
- But what about pay for appearing in matches?
- It is an investment.
- In what?
- In the success of the team. Last year’s Women’s World Cup title did not come out of nowhere. Every player put in countless hours on the training ground, studying film, travelling to matches, and playing in matches. These are the exact same things the male players do, and the female players are working just as hard at it.
- Yes, but –
- Compare that to other nations where women’s football is not a priority. Nations like Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain, and Nigeria have long footballing traditions, but they invest much less in the women’s game than the US does. Those four nations have another thing in common: they all crashed out at the group phase.
- But the US won the Women’s World Cup. So doesn’t that mean US Soccer is investing enough in the women’s game and doesn’t need to invest more?
- No. There have been a great many female players who have not stuck with the sport because they could not earn a living. Paying players fairly expands the talent pool, improves competition for places on the squad, and ensures depth on the squad in case of injury. And besides, the US didn’t win the three previous Women’s World Cups. In fact, in 2011, they were an Abby Wambach header away from a quarterfinal exit, which would have been their worst ever performance.
- So US Soccer should pay the women more so that they’ll stay on top?
- Tee hee! You said “on top”!
- You know what I mean.
- No, US Soccer should not pay the women more so that they’ll stay on top. US Soccer should pay the women their fair share. That means that the performance bonuses, appearance fees, per diem, and share of gate receipts should be the same.
- So should the women not receive a salary? The men don’t.
- USWNT players specifically negotiated a salary in the previous collective bargaining agreement because they needed to be covered while the NWSL is out of season, or while they are on maternity leave. These concerns do not apply to male players.
- But if the women get a salary and the men don’t, how will we know whether they’re being paid fairly?
- Simple. Each fiscal year, compute what someone who was on the squad for all of the USWNT’s matches would earn under the women’s rules, including the salary. Then do that again, but under the men’s rules. If they are not comparable, the female players are not being paid fairly.
- Okay, so what happens when you do that?
- Are you kidding? Look at how much we’ve already written! We’re not going to do that for you as well!
- How about next week?
- No, we’ve got a Stump Edvard column scheduled for next week.
- The week after that, then.
- All right, fine.
- Hi there. I just scrolled all the way down here. Can you give me the TL;DR version?
- Men and women should be paid equally for equal work. That’s all there is to it.
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