Female footballers get same contracts as men – but equal pay row rages on
The United States women’s football team has been offered identical contracts to its male counterparts. The move is one of the most significant developments to date in the quadruple World Cup winners’ battle for equal pay.
The American Football Federation said the offer was “with the aim of aligning the senior men’s and women’s national teams under a single collective agreement structure (CBA).”
The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) and US Soccer have fought for equal pay for the past four years and suffered a major setback last year when a judge dismissed their discrimination claims salary.
Although today’s announcement appears to be a step forward in the talks, it remains to be seen whether the World Cup winners, who are already claiming more than $ 66m (£ 49.4m ) for damages under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964, would agree to such conditions.
If the women’s or men’s team disagree with the new agreements, the USSF said it would invite every union to participate in the negotiations for full transparency.
USSF said, “US Soccer firmly believes that the best way forward for everyone involved, and for the future of the sport in the United States, is a single compensation structure for the two senior national teams.
“This proposal will ensure that USWNT and USMNT players remain among the highest paid senior national team players in the world, while providing a revenue-sharing structure that would allow all parties to start from scratch and to collectively share the opportunity that combines investment in the future of American football will come true during a new CBA.
The federation also calls on the players and the two player associations to join them in “finding a way to equalize the prizes of the FIFA World Cup between the USMNT and the USWNT”.
The USSF has previously argued that it cannot pay the women’s World Cup bonuses that match the men’s due to the very different bonus payments for men’s and women’s tournaments paid to federations by Fifa. “US Soccer will not accept any collective agreement that does not take the important step of equalizing the FIFA World Cup prizes,” he added.
More than two years have passed since the women’s team filed their name in a lawsuit against the USSF over equal pay and working conditions. The women are four times world champions; the men failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
The women say they were not paid fairly under their collective agreement which runs until December 2021, compared to what the men’s team receives under a deal that expired in December 2018.
But in May of last year, the USWNT’s equal pay request was turned down by a federal judge, prompting Megan Rapinoe, one of the leading voices in the fight against US Soccer, to to swear that the team “would never stop fighting for equality”.
Last December, the USSF and USWNT reached a settlement in their lawsuit, which ended the dispute over unequal working conditions in areas such as travel, hotel accommodation, staff support and the right to play on turf rather than artificial surfaces.
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While identical contracts seem like a step in the right direction, the offer still falls short of what the USWNT has long been striving for – getting paid exactly like the men’s national team.
Equal contracts would not cover compensation that does not fall under a single salary structure for the two national teams, such as bonuses for success in major tournaments. The USSF maintains that these bonuses are beyond their control.
Since 2017, World Cup holders have felt they should be paid better than men given their successes on the pitch which have boosted audiences and TV attendance and the commercial income they generate. It’s an argument that has been openly supported by the men’s national team.
The contract offer, however, could be an important step in the USWNT’s long quest for equal pay, which has dragged on since March 2019 and lost a lot of ground when Federal Judge Gary Klausner ruled that the pay case did not warrant a trial.
Former US goalie Hope Solo sparked controversy earlier this year when she suggested the current national team “isn’t doing enough” to fight for equal pay.
Either way, the timing of the USSF announcement matters, as other countries move forward with pay equity. Earlier this month, the Football Association of Ireland announced equal match fees for its women’s team – which is ranked 32 places below the USWNT – becoming the 10th out of 185 nation in the game to do so.
Last September, the English Football Association confirmed that they pay their female players exactly the same as their male counterparts to represent England, both in terms of match fees and match bonuses and that the parity had been in place since January 2020.