Has the Women’s World Cup Affected the Pay Gap?

Alex Morgan during the USWNT friendly against New Zealand on May 16, 2019, in St. Louis
Alex Morgan during the USWNT friendly against New Zealand on May 16, 2019, in St. Louis - photo by Jamie Smed

The women’s World Cup in France produced some fine games and captured the attention of soccer fans from both sexes.

Whilst it provided a fine sporting spectacle and a chance for some of the leading women in the game to showcase their talents, it also handed them a chance to make a very important point to the watching world.

A Bloomberg article published ahead of the tournament revealed how the USNWT were already involved in the discussion around equal pay, with England’s Kelly Smith, head of the Premier League, part of the panel discussing the issue.

Coral details how Kelly Smith is one of Britain’s most iconic sports stars due to being England’s record goalscorer. And she’s just one of the world stars throwing their weight behind the fight for parity of pay. She retired from the international scene in 2014, just a year before England slipped out of the World Cup in Canada courtesy of a bizarre own goal.

The situation has been highlighted in the US as several senators have produced a bill calling for funds to be withheld from the men’s team until pay for their opposite sex is raised to an acceptable level. Doris Matsui of California and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut have brought in a bill, which a CNN report claims should stop funds for the 2026 men’s World Cup.

All of this comes after the USWNT sued the United States Soccer Federation for gender discrimination early this year. It led to chants of ‘U-S-A’ being replaced by ‘equal pay’ throughout the World Cup, furthering their position of strength.

The USNWT is not the only female side to be campaigning for better rights. Argentina only took part in the tournament this summer after being forced to fight for their rights. The Guardian documents how they were once classed as unranked by FIFA, such was the neglect they suffered in terms of funding at the hands of their own governing body, the AFA.

Their joy at merely being at the World Cup was evident, but in the upper echelons of the women’s game, they are not happy just to be taking part.

Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are perhaps more recognizable now in the US than most of its male stars, but their earning potential is not comparable. The women earned a maximum of $4,950 per friendly match, while the US men’s side earned an average of $13,166 for a similar game.

One argument against the changes is that it would cost the USSF three times the total revenue from the tournament to achieve parity, something that does add context to what is a compelling argument for the women.

The men’s game does attract more interest around the world but the women’s game is growing fast. In some countries, certainly South America, the women’s game is still treated with a level of disdain, but that is changing, rapidly.

The World Cup might not achieve level pay on its own, but it has given a very loud voice indeed to those who want to effect change.