U.S. Women's National Team Soccer and the Imaginary Pay Gap

07/12/2019

A pay gap refers to an unfair discrepancy in compensation given that the parties involved contribute the same amount to the results.

A pay gap exists in the teaching profession where women make 72 cents for every dollar a man makes. A pay gap exists in administrative positions where women make just 62 cents to every dollar a man makes. These are just a few among many examples of how women are paid unfairly, which contributes to a society where women make 79 cents for every dollar men make.

However, where a pay gap does not exist is between the United States Men's and Women's National Soccer Teams.

If you've followed soccer over the last month or so, you would have seen that the US Women's National team stormed to another World Cup title, making it two in a row. And at the midst of their success was a rise in public support for their demand of equal pay in relation to their male counterparts. After all, the women are coming off the back of two successive world cup titles and three finals in a row while the men failed to qualify for the 2018 world cup. This led to an uproar with multiple journalists publishing articles detailing the gap in bonuses received for winning the world cup.

These articles all pointed to a $730,000 gap in bonuses had the US Men's team won the world cup, claiming it was another example of the pay gap and gender discrimination. Unfortunately, you all have been misinformed.

What those articles conveniently left out was the wide gap in revenue brought in by the Men and Women's World Cup.

This last FIFA Women's World Cup that set viewership records for the Women's game brought in an estimated 131 million dollars in revenue. While the 2018 FIFA Men's World Cup brought in an outstanding 6 Billion dollars in revenue, yes B for Billion. That is an incredible 4480% difference in revenue. The pay gap suddenly disappears when you consider just how much more the Men's world cup generates in comparison to the Women's world cup.

Would it be fair for us to be paid the same amount even though your work brought in 45 times what my work did? No, of course not, your payment should reflect the fact that you brought in a far greater amount than I did.

That is the truth that you haven't been told, it is not about gender it is about revenue. A numbers game that flips in favor of the Women when you consider percentage of revenue received . . .

FIFA is the organization that organizes the world cup and professional soccer worldwide. Of the 131 million brought in by the 2019 Women's World Cup, FIFA awarded the teams a pot of 30 million to be shared amongst the teams. That is roughly 23% of total revenue, not bad. As mentioned above, the 2018 Men's World Cup brought in 6 Billion in revenue of which the teams shared 400 million in prize money, roughly 6 percent of total revenue.

What that means is that the teams participating in the women's world cup actually received a greater percentage of their revenue than the men did. 23% of revenue to 6% of revenue. Even then, the United States federation still allocates a greater percentage of world cup bonuses to the Women than they do to the Men. If we wanted to blindly equal the playing field, would that not mean that the men have an argument to make considering the gap in percentage received?

Now that you have the full story on the World Cup gap, what about the perceived gap at the national level? The gap that led the United States Women's national team to file a lawsuit in March of 2019. The lawsuit brought some fair complaints such as travel arrangements and quality of playing fields. But the lawsuit also claimed that the team was payed less than the men in performance bonuses and other bonus packages.

So, is that the truth? Are the Men payed higher bonuses than the Women?

Yes. But only because the Men are payed strictly on bonuses while the Women earn a base salary and then bonuses on top of that. 

Every Women's national team player makes a base salary of 100k for playing for the national team, for the Men there is no base salary.  Therefore, the men earn more in bonuses because they do not receive the benefit of a base salary. 

Even with that been the case, the team claims to have earned more in total revenue for the federation in gate revenue which means they should be payed equally in bonuses. What is conveniently excluded is that gate revenue only accounts for a quarter of US Soccer revenue.

And while in 2016, the Women did bring in about two million dollars more in gate revenue in the wake of their 2015 world cup win, 2016 is the only time in the last decade where the women out earned the men in gate revenue. In fact, between 2014 and 2015, the men brought in 20 million more in gate revenue and again in 2018 the men out earned the Women's team in gate revenue.

The Women's National Team should be applauded and recognized for their outstanding achievements, but we have to be objective when we consider their claims of a pay gap . . . it simply does not exist. On the international level, they actually receive a greater percentage of their generated revenue than the men do and on the national level, there may be a difference in treatment but there is no gap in payment.

In 2019 as with 2018, US Women's National Team players will actually make more than the Men's National Teams players have due to the bonus and payment structures.

Today, we live in a world where people are quick to hop on the next social wave in a genuine effort to address the world's issues. People have lost the ability to do their own objective research before developing an educated opinion. In this case, United States government officials and celebrities of all kinds have been quick to jump on the bandwagon without considering the facts. 

There is a real gender pay gap issue we need to direct our attention to but this is not one of them, there is no pay gap to be found here. Our efforts would be much better off directed to the plethora of industries where women actually experience a pay gap.



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