The Demands of the US Women’s Football Team

Sheltered by the argument about “delicate female organs,” Brazil banned women’s football between 1941 and 1971. Earlier, in 1921, England had banned the use of any stadium affiliated with the English Football Association, a restriction that was not lifted until 1971. There were, of course, isolated cases.

Today women’s football breaks records. Thus, the U.S. victory over Japan in the final of the 2015 Women’s World Cup is the most watched football match in U.S. television.

Last month five players instituted a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation demanding equal pay with men. The women earn $3,500 for a friendly match and $1,350 if they win. Men get $5,000 plus $8,166 for a win. Women earn a salary of $72,000 directly from the federation and an additional $54,000 to play in a local league. Men get their millionaire salaries from their clubs. They get a fixed $100,000 to play friendlies with their local selection, which exceeds the base salary of women. If they win, the differences widen.

There are more differences. Women divided a prize of $2 million for being World Champions. The men, eliminated in Brazil in the second round in 2014, received $9 million.

Equal work, equal pay. The principle is reasonable. But Leo Messi charges more than Rafael Robayo despite performing the same job of kicking a ball. Their work is not equal. In this case, women are, in relative terms, qualitatively superior to men. They should then charge more. But the opportunity cost of men is higher. That is, to attend a match against Haiti means more sacrifice for a player who is in the Premier League than for a player who is a direct employee of the federation.

Men fought for decades to be recognized as workers with rights. Eusebio and Pele could not leave Portugal and Brazil respectively because they were considered national heritage. Many players saw their careers finished because they refused to accept the conditions of their clubs. “Women should fight for their rights … I feel they should fight for their rights, no matter what. Other than that, they have their battle to fight, and they should do that,” said U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard in The New York Times on March 31, in a message of support. It is the same path the men were on years ago, when they were forbidden to play. Today it is women’s turn. Their attitude, however, should be more modern. It is not equality with men that helps their demand for higher returns. It is their performance on the field which helps their demands.

The players should have an increase in pay because the U.S. women’s team is more profitable than the men’s team. Their opportunity costs, prevent (for now) equalizing incomes. But the gap must be narrowed.

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About Robert Sullivan 112 Articles
Ex-Foreign correspondent who lived and worked in Argentina and Brazil, among other (non-Latin) countries.

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