John Weaver | Equal Pay in Soccer: Myths and Facts

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

No sooner had the U.S. Women’s Soccer team won its final match, the Democrats decided to politicize the event via their old standby bromide of “equal pay.” Personally, although originally looking forward to the matches, I found myself losing all interest when I heard that star player Megan Rapinoe had joined the Colin Kaepernick crowd in her hatred for the U.S. flag, America and Trump. 

Consequently, I simply refused to watch. Later I learned that others must have felt similarly since viewership was down in the U.S. by about 30% from 2015 levels. But I digress from the main subject of equal pay.

The first thing to realize is that there are two sources of income to both the men and women players. These include the prize monies, which are earned via participation in either the women’s or men’s World Cup tournaments, and player salaries, which are contractual obligations between the U.S. Soccer Federation and players based on collective bargaining agreements. The U.S. Women’s team is currently suing the U.S. Soccer Federation over equal pay.

The Women’s World Cup for 2019 is expected to generate revenues of about $131 million, of which teams are expected to receive $30 million and the winner $4 million. By contrast, the 2018 Men’s World Cup generated over $6 billion, of which teams received over $400 million and the winning team over $38 million. These numbers show that the women’s teams receive over 20% of revenues compared to less than 7% for the men, with the winning women’s team receiving over 3% of revenues compared to less than 1% for the men. Based on these figures, any fair-minded observer might conclude, easily, that either the men are underpaid, or the women overpaid.

It appears the equal pay crowd’s argument, at least with respect to World Cup prize money, has much more to do with the significantly higher worldwide popularity of the men’s game than any imagined sexism on the part of the U.S. Soccer Federation as various Democrat politicians (Bill de Blasio, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, etc.) would have us believe. 

As is typical with the left, cause, effect, reality and facts bear little or no relationship to their demands. Here are some changes that liberals might promote to affect equal pay with respect to the World Cup prizes: 

1. Demand that all international revenues be shared equally between men’s and women’s soccer. This would immediately equalize the prize money; 

2. Demand that competition be combined into a single league with women’s teams and men’s teams competing in a single World Cup. This, of course, might be counterproductive to equal pay if all or few women’s teams failed to qualify for the Cup competition; 

3. Demand the abolishment of the separate men’s and women’s teams in favor of genderless teams comprised of male, female, and genderless persons who would compete for team positions. This again might be counterproductive to the equal pay agenda if few female persons were able to qualify for the genderless teams.

It is doubtful that any of the above or other equal pay solutions would gain any traction internationally. Indeed, should de Blasio, Harris, Warren, etc., suggest such solutions; I suspect they might be met with a giant international raspberry-sound and a few obscene gestures and comments as to what they could do with their suggestions. However, undoubtably this would solidify their hero status amongst the equal pay crowd.

As mentioned above, both the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams receive pay from the World Cup Prizes and from U.S. Soccer Federation via collective bargaining agreements. Revenues, other than World Cup prizes, are generated from items such as gate receipts for games, media contracts and sales of official gear. 

The two bargaining agreements are different. The men’s team is paid entirely on the basis of bonuses, which are based on participation and performance. The women’s team has both a guaranteed income and a bonus-based income. Exact comparison figures between men’s team and women’s team collective bargaining pay is unavailable but is roughly equivalent. It is nowhere near the tenfold difference in winners’ share prize money from the World Cup competition. This tenfold difference, however, is the comparison that liberals prefer to cite when lamenting differences in pay.

The federal lawsuit, which the women’s team is bringing against the U.S. Soccer Federation, will address and can only address differences in the bargaining arrangements between the federation and the two teams. It will not and cannot address differences between women’s and men’s World Cup prize money. The latter would be a matter for international bodies and multiple international participants. Even if it prevails in the lawsuit, the women’s team is unlikely to gain much beyond that which it could achieve by standard bargaining using their recent success in the World Cup as leverage.

But that will matter little to the equal pay crowd. We can expect that the de Blasios, Harrises and Warrens of the world will push the lawsuit and their agenda to the limit of political usefulness.

John Weaver is a more-than-20-year resident of Santa Clarita. He carries degrees in physics and mathematics from Carnegie Institute of Technology (Now Carnegie Mellon University) and is a lifelong student of our Constitution and the passing political scene. “Right Here, Right Now” usually appears on Saturdays, and rotates among several local Republicans.

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