When the United States Women’s National Team won its fourth World Cup title on a Sunday in France two years ago, the financial prize for US Soccer was $ 4 million. This sounds like a lot of money because it’s a lot of money, but in the world of FIFA, it’s half of what the men’s World Cup teams get for walking through the door.
Panama lost all three of their games by a total of nine goals and finished 32 of 32 teams at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. His federation received $ 8 million for this performance.
We told you a year ago that this was the biggest problem in the USWNT’s fight for “equal pay”: the absurd disparity in prizes between the men’s and women’s World Cups, and US Soccer officials are finally acknowledging the issue.
Whether they can do something about it is another question.
“We have been working in this area,” USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone told Sporting News during a press call on Tuesday. “It is not just about pushing FIFA. Everyone must realize that we are one of the 211 federations that make up FIFA, and it is a top-down / bottom-up approach that we must adopt.
“First of all, we have to help the other federations and countries to really see the value of the women’s game and appreciate what it can contribute and what it can do for their country and the football / soccer of their country. And then the top-down approach is to try to push FIFA and help them see the value of the game and invest in the female and female side of the game on the same level as the male and male side of the game.
“What can we do to make a change tomorrow? Not much. But over time, we are hopeful, because we’ve seen it here in the US and in parts of Europe, that there is a lot of interest in the female side of the game. And if everyone invests at the same level as the men’s side, the game will grow globally, and FIFA and everyone else will benefit from that. “
The prize pool for the 2018 World Cup in Russia was $ 400 million. For the Women’s World Cup in France the following year, it was $ 30 million. The men’s event is the world’s biggest television attraction, attracting a global audience of 3.57 billion that year. According to FIFA’s assessment, if women were paid according to their audience, their 2019 tournament should have been watched by around 275 million people.
Except the audience for the Women’s World Cup was one billion.
If we take FIFA at its word regarding the value of the men’s tournament, then the prize pool for women should have been at least $ 112 million, which would have increased the US first-place payout to just under $ 15 million. There would be far less reason for the women’s team and the US federation to argue about money if that kind of cash flowed into Soccer House.
FIFA has committed to expanding the prize pool for the Women’s World Cup in 2023. It is scheduled to increase by $ 30 million, to $ 60 million. That sounds like a lot of money because it is a lot of money. But it is not as big as the increase in the prize pool for men for the 2022 World Cup, which will increase by $ 40 million.
FIFA is not even trying to appear to care.
Back in this country, the USWNT took the USSF to court in March 2019 in a class action lawsuit over unequal pay and unequal working conditions. While the two sides reached an agreement on working conditions (such as travel, charter flights, hotel, stadiums), the USWNT is still appealing for the wage inequality argument to be reinstated after a district judge dismissed it. in a summary ruling in favor of the USSF. The USWNT was seeking more than $ 66 million in damages in that part of the lawsuit, including compensation for the difference in prize money from FIFA.
“The difference in prize money that FIFA distributes between the men’s and women’s teams is quite stark,” US Soccer Secretary General Will Wilson said on the call. “We will continue to work on this with FIFA to close the gap in prize money as we also continue to support professional women’s soccer in the US.”
Putting aside the dispute over the FIFA prize money, Cone and Wilson indicated that they want to meet with the players to resolve equal pay claims out of court and also to discuss a new collective agreement as the current collective agreement expires. at the end of 2021. But Wilson said that “asking us to make up the difference in prize money from FIFA is unsustainable and would probably ruin the federation.”
Given the $ 28 million shortfall for 2020 that resulted largely from the COVID-19 pandemic, that might even be true.
However, what is out of the question is that the main villain in the USWNT fight is based in Switzerland, not Chicago. And if the players and the federation found themselves on the same side in the future, it would be much more difficult for FIFA to ignore the protests of “equal pay”.