Who decides how much female footballers get paid – and how can their wages rise?

Footballers from across the globe have put on a masterclass during this year’s Women’s World Cup.

Goalkeepers such as England’s Mary Earps, Sweden’s Zećira Mušović and Australia’s Mackenzie Arnold have shone – so much so that fans have demanded Nike stock their kit.

Iconic goals early in the group stages also got the World Cup off to a dramatic start.

But despite the immense viewing figures and support worldwide, many players are still battling to receive fair pay.

Jamaica had to launch a GoFundMe to reach the tournament while the Lionesses were embroiled in a debate over bonuses as the tournament kicked off.

With the success of both the Euros and World Cup, could female footballers soon see wages similar to those in the men’s game?

‘Huge revenue equals higher salaries’

Nicola Saharsky, partner at Mayer Brown, says collective pressure is needed to make sure women are paid the same as their male counterparts.

She told Metro.co.uk: ‘Many female players are becoming celebrities in their own right. After the 2019 Women’s World Cup, the USA’s Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe became household names. 

‘The same will be true after this World Cup. 

‘For example, when I was in Australia last week, you could not walk ten feet without seeing someone – man, woman, or child – wearing a Sam Kerr jersey. 

‘In many countries, the women’s teams now have public support on par with the men’s teams, and that public support will matter when the teams seek equal pay.’

Many players used to play for meagre wages and, in the UK, for years women couldn’t play at all.

In recent history, salaries for female footballers have been far lower than their male counterparts.

This was coupled with a wider lack of investment and slim broadcast opportunities to attract fans.

Nicola continued: ‘The women’s salaries have been much lower than the men’s salaries for years, but that was based in large part on a perception that the public was not as interested in women’s football and that women’s football could not generate significant revenues. 

‘We now know that is false – there is great excitement about the women’s teams.  The Lionesses have sold out Wembley Stadium. 

‘The Matildas have sold twice as many jerseys for the Women’s World Cup as the Australian men’s team sold for the World Cup in Qatar. 

‘The women’s national teams and the club teams have the potential to generate huge revenues, and that will eventually translate into higher salaries.’

Who decides the pay for players?

FIFA, the international governing body for football, decides how much to pay the teams for qualifying for, advancing in, and winning the Women’s World Cup. 

FIFA pays that money to the country’s federation which acts as the governing body for soccer in that country. In England, it’s the FA that receives the cash.

The federation of each country then decides how much of that money to pay to the individual players on the team.

Nicola explains: ‘The laws governing equal pay differ in each country, so the legal arguments will be a bit different in each country. 

‘But in each country, the players generally have the ability to bargain with their federation for better pay and benefits. 

‘So when one team achieves equal pay, that provides additional bargaining power for the other teams.  

‘Of course, those other teams have significant bargaining power for other reasons, including their own success, merchandise and ticket sales, and public support.’

USA led the way

Nicola worked alongside the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT)  on their ground-breaking pay battle with the US Soccer Federation.

Nicola added: ‘The US women’s team showed that equal pay is achievable.  The success of the US women’s team has inspired other women’s teams to push their federations to give them equal pay and equal working conditions.   

‘I was the team’s lead lawyer on appeal and helped the team achieve their ground-breaking equal-pay settlement with the US Soccer Federation.  

‘I was honoured to represent the players – they are so talented and driven, and they fight for what is right. 

‘I am glad we could achieve such a great result, especially because it has helped other women’s teams across the world fight for equal pay as well.’

Broadcast opportunities, brand deals and investment in the grassroots level of women’s football has been bolstered by England’s historic Euros win in 2022.

But that support cannot stall – and other countries need to follow the likes of the USA and England to ensure an equal playing field.

Nicola continued: ‘It’s a very exciting time for women’s football. 

‘The players are finally obtaining the public attention they deserve. They are inspiring girls and boys all over the world to play football. 

‘And they are showing that women can be just as competitive and tough as men.’

READ MORE: How much do Lionesses get paid? England star salaries revealed

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