As new legislation comes into force Abby Chinery investigates the gender pay gap in football.

Although the fans are just as loyal, and the players just as passionate, little progress has been made to bridge the gap between men and women in football. This is especially true when it comes to the sizeable pay checks associated with male footballers.

The Women’s FA was formed in 1969 and reflected the vast changes in attitudes toward women in male-dominated spheres. In the almost 50 years that have passed since then, despite the growing interest in women’s football, female players are paid more than 100 times less than their male counterparts (as is the case of Marta Vieira and Carlos Tevez).

Football ticket sales site decided to highlight the shocking pay difference between men and women in football with the following infographic.

We can see here that male champions in football receive around £27.3 million collectively as a team, whereas female winners receive less than 10% of that; with the figure standing at £1.56 million.

This gender pay gap persists despite the spectacular performance by the England team at the 2015 Women’s World Cup. As the above graphic shows, the female England captain, Steph Houghton, reportedly earns £65,000 a year, with sponsorship deals, yet England Captain Wayne Rooney earns £300,000 a week just from on-pitch earnings.

To put that into perspective, Rooney earns more in one hour, than Houghton earns in one week (£536 more!).

Bear in mind that England’s female team managed to come third; whereas the previous year their male counterparts were booted out at the knock out stages. This would seemingly point towards not only a gap between the salaries of male and female players, but also between the perception of their skills and their actual performance.

Is Women’s Football Simply an Unpopular Sport?

Oliver, a 28-year-old avid football fan, claimed that it is “fair that women get less pay then men in football. The quality from men and the standards are much higher. They also train more and spectator rates are greater for men than women”.

This direct comparison of the beautiful game as it is played by men and women is unfair. The difference in gameplay style does not equate to a poorer quality of skill on display. It is true that football played by women is often played at a slower pace than men, resulting in the technicalities of the game being emphasised, as opposed to the aggressive and fast play which is synonymous with male footballers. Therefore, performance-based pay is another area of monetary inequality, where any male footballers eliminated in the first round receive £6.34 million – more than four times that of female at champion level!

Although spectator rates may be higher for men than women, football remains the most popular sport for women in the UK. Manchester City women’s team saw attendances increase by 50% in 2016, which would detract from the idea that women’s football is simply unpopular.

What Can Be Done?

Responsibility for growing interest in women’s football has fallen firmly at the FA’s feet. The FA is said to be "committed" to doubling attendances of women’s football matches by 2020. However, with only 6 members out of 37 being female on the FA Executive Committee, questions may be asked about the FA’s investment in the case for equality for women in football.

Most recently, there has been changes made to football programming on the BBC. The Women’s Football Show on BBC Two will be showing highlights from the Women’s Super League One series, as well as airing live matches on their website. Additionally, BT Sport will stream several women’s football games live. Not only will this allow for more interest from those watching, but an increased media attention will provide female footballers the chance to be taken more seriously and display their skills.

Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA's head of women's football stated that "rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, we will look to tailor support [including marketing and local player development], by looking at the challenges and situations at each club."

It’s not just football.

Women are severely under-represented on many sport boards, indeed there has been a fall in the number of women in some sport organisations. For example, female participation on National Olympic Committees has fallen by 1%.

This lack of female presence trickles down and results in a lack of encouragement for women to be involved in sporting at a professional level. Equally discouraging is the fact that men receive more prize money in 30% of all sports. A lack of funding for women’s sports has resulted in lower-quality coaching and an overall decrease in the attractiveness of games to broadcasters.

Fighting for female and male equality in sport remains a hot topic, and for good reason, as the treatment of women in this sphere is certainly representative of a wider gender inequality in society. 

Thanks to for the research conducted for this article
Page header photo credit: Fotokostic / Shutterstock

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