Gender Inequality in Soccer

By Ariana Figueroa

There are several gender disparities in women’s soccer. The most prevalent being the pay gap between men and women soccer players, which is an ongoing social issue in sports. Another issue is how female soccer players are not given the same turf for games as male soccer players receive.

Recently, five athletes on the U.S. women’s national soccer team filled a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on March 30. The players, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapione, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo, are demanding equal pay and are calling for an investigation because they believe the wage practices are discriminating against women soccer players.

According to ESPNW, the complaint cites the USSF’s 2015 financial report that shows the women’s team generating about $20 million more in revenue than the U.S. men’s team, but the women are paid four times less than their male counterparts. Winston & Strawn and its co-chairman Jeffrey Kessler filed the lawsuit.

In the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission file, women earn $99,000 each if they won 20 friendlies, which is the minimum number the athletes are required to play each year. Men earn about $263,320 for the same amount of friendlies and are paid $100,000 if the athletes lose all 20 games, where women soccer players are not paid for playing more than 20 games. Men typically get between $5,000 and $18,000 for each game played after 20 games.

In an interview with the “Today Show,” Alex Morgan said “Every single day we sacrifice just as much as the men. We work just as much. We endure just as much physically and emotionally. Our fans really do appreciate us every day for that. We saw that with the high of last summer. We’re really asking, and demanding now, that our federation, and our employer really, step up and appreciate us as well.”

These women have proven their athletic worth but yet this pay gap does not reflect on their athleticism. It shows that women are not equal to men and their work is not held to the same standard as men. This can be seen with the World Cup.

There is a major disparity in the pay for playing in the World Cup. The U.S. women’s team has won a World Cup while the U.S. men’s soccer team has not but the pay is disproportionate. When the U.S. women’s team won the World Cup last year, the team earned a total of $2 million. But, when the U.S. men’s team played in the World Cup in 2014 and lost, the whole team earned $9 million.

Hope Solo said “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the [men] get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

Women in soccer also struggle to earn the same playing field as men. In 2014, 80 international female soccer players sued FIFA and CSA for gender discrimination after the World Cup games were to be played on turf grass instead of natural grass. It became known as the “turf war” where FIFA and CSA threatened the player who protested with suspension. The lawsuit was withdrawn so the players and coaches could prepare for the games and adjust to playing on artificial turf. No men’s soccer games have ever played on artificial turf.

The men’s soccer players were given natural grass. Not including the pay gap between men and women, the fact that the women are not given the proper field shows inequality in soccer. It’s hard for women to protest these conditions because a World Cup comes every four years and it would mean a female athlete would be giving up an opportunity she has been training for years.

Former two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion Abby Wambach has voiced her concerns about female soccer players using fake turf for games. She is now spending her retirement fighting for gender equality in soccer.

Wambach, a UF alumna who holds a world record for the most international goals scored by any soccer player faced gender inequality during her career. She scored more goals than any man and she earned much less. As the highest paid female soccer player she made an average of $1 million. Male soccer players such as Lionel Messi raked in $50 million and Cristiano Ronaldo made more than $48 million. David Beckham made $40 million in just endorsements during his final year as a professional soccer player.

It’s disheartening for female soccer players to see their male counterparts making substantially more than them for equal amount of work. Even a superior athlete such as Wambach, who has proved she is athletically more qualified than other male players, has struggled with a large inequality pay gap.

In addition to raising questions about pay disparities, Wambach has openly talked about FIFA’s treatment of women soccer players. During the “turf war” Wambach told CBS news that FIFA treats women as second-class athletes. She said the field can harm athletes because the turf can break and hit athletes in their eyes and scrape their legs and arms.

“About a year ago when we heard definitively that they were gonna be playing it on actual artificial surface, I kinda came out pretty vocally and said this is an outrage, this is a disgrace,” Wombach said to CBS. “The game changes, the ball rolls faster, and it’s less fun as an athlete. It should be grass stains, not blood.”

Forward player Sydney Leroux shared a photo of her bloodied and bruised legs after playing a game on a turf field.

“It is a gender equality issue,” Laroux said to CBS. “No chance men would ever play a World Cup on turf. I think the women are being treated as guinea pigs.”

Other male athletes such as Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant supported Laroux saying that FIFA should protect their female athletes.

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