Why Female Soccer Players Earn Less

A very hot topic in soccer (and all sports) in the last few years has been equal pay for male and female professionals.

Female soccer players feel like they are vastly underpaid compared to their male counterparts, and many have pushed to close that gap as much as possible. However, that gap is still very wide, and it can sometimes be hard to understand exactly why.

Why do female soccer players earn less? Revenue is the most cited reason why female soccer players make less than men. Whether it is at the international or club level, male teams bring in a lot more money from TV deals, sponsors, ticket revenue, and more.

Worldwide Popularity

TournamentViewers
World Cup 2019 (Women)764 Million
World Cup 2018 (Men)3,6 Billion
  • Men’s World Cup had 5x more viewers then the women’s World Cup

Women’s soccer has much less of a history at the highest level than men. Although this is due to the old thought of women’s sports in general, it is difficult for women to play catch-up. There are club teams that have over a century of history, and that means generations of fans supporting the club and building a fanbase around it. 

Even as far as World Cup competition is concerned, the first Women’s World Cup was not held until 1991. It would take another decade for a lot of countries to get on board and field a quality team, which made for a pretty challenging experience overall. Even now, the United States is viewed as having a considerable advantage because women’s sports took off around the 1970s (compared to other countries lagging behind).

Without a strong fanbase and decades of history surrounding the sport, it can be very challenging to get the same type of eyeballs on the matches.

With fewer people tuning in, it makes it that much more challenging to land lucrative sponsorship deals, TV contracts, and more. Popularity in-person and on television must be present for any sport to bring in a ton of money.

Revenue

There is only so much money to go around if revenue is not being generated. At the club level, no women’s club league has been able to come even close to the top men’s leagues around the world. That is not to say that they can’t close the gap at some point, but it is a whole different experience.

World Cup ratings and revenue are a little closer, but still nothing in the same ballpark just yet. One tricky situation involves the United States, as the women have been dominant while the men have struggled to even consistently make World Cup appearances.

Still, there is so much money made from the World Cup that the United States can simply qualify on the men’s side to get part of the pie. For the women, even getting the largest part of the pie is still leaving them a bit short.

Revenue differences between men and women’s World Cup

TournamentRevenue
World Cup 2019 (Women)$6 Million
World Cup 2018 (Men)$131 Million

In the latest World Cups, the men generated $6 billion in revenue, while the women generated $131 million. One can gather from those two numbers alone why men are paid out so much better than women.

Prize Money differences between men and women’s World Cup

TournamentPrize Money (Winner)
World Cup 2019 (Women)$4 Million
World Cup 2018 (Men)$38 Million

Collective Bargaining Agreement

Women have the opportunity to come to terms with how much money will be given out at the club and international levels whenever there is a new collective-bargaining agreement opportunity.

The good news for women is they have more leverage than ever before to start demanding more pay and equal rights when compared to men. Women’s soccer in general is riding a bit of a high right now, and they do not seem to be slowing down by any means.

The United States is at the forefront of this fight, pushing for better pay and equal treatment overall. Their setup is getting better and better, but it still pales in comparison to the top teams in the world.

How Females Are Closing The Gap

Plenty of female soccer players have spoken up about what they believe is an injustice for professionals. Even if everything they fought for has not turned into success just yet, there is something to be said for getting everything started and at least making the world think a little more.

Women’s soccer is at an all-time high as far as popularity is concerned around the world. Many countries are investing millions and millions of dollars into their women’s national team in hopes of finding success in years to come.

The United States is at the forefront of this, which is a major reason why they have been so dominant at the international level. Some countries are just now beginning to actually take their women’s national team seriously.

Once a generation of female athletes grows up with new opportunities, the sport should only continue to grow. That means more sponsorship opportunities coming in, and more companies willing to put their name right there as part of women’s professional soccer.

Monumental changes take a lot of time, and with trends going in the right direction, the gap will close more and more. It might take a very long time for men and women to be on complete equal standing in soccer or any professional sports, but for fans, all they can continue to do is support.

Whether it is watching games on TV, in person, or buying merchandise from the store, it shows that there is enough support to survive in the long run.

Do Women Earn Equal Pay In Any Sport?

The sport leading the way as far as equal pay is concerned is tennis. For the last few years, at Grand Slam events, men and women tennis players have earned the same amount of money depending on where they finish. That is a lot of lobbying for the top tennis players in the world to get to that level, but it is hard to deny the results.

When looking at basketball, another major sport played by both men and women, the discrepancy is even more than in soccer. Women face the same problems, as the NBA is much more popular than the WNBA. That means they bring in much more revenue, and it is hard to justify increasing the pay without money coming in.

Will Men & Women Soccer Players Ever Earn Equal Pay?

It still seems like it is a few years away, but there is just too much momentum behind women getting close to equal pay as men. At least at the World Cup level, it seems likely that they will get the same amount of money sooner rather than later. As for clubs, that will take a lot longer, because they are so independent of each other.

Most importantly though, is that awareness is now at an all-time high. Change might take time, but there is a foundation being laid for future athletes. The current crop of professional soccer players might not rake in the money they are hoping for, but they are still making sure the sport is going in the right direction.

Connor Smith

I'm Connor, the guy behind SoccerPrime. I'm a former NCAA Div 1 college player that retired at the age of 21 due to injuries - which led me into a new career as a soccer coach.

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