Equal Pay in Football

“If it’s just as popular as men’s, they will get it, because the income and advertisement will go into that. But it’s not like that, so why do they have to earn the same? I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t understand that.”

Frank de Boer (Former Manager of Crystal Palace)

When I think of football, I naturally think of men’s football. Now, you can call me ignorant or shallow-minded but it is just true and many people would probably agree with me. I wouldn’t call myself a big football fan, I know how it is played but am not aware of where each team stands in the league or the qualities of individual players. The teams that spring to my mind when I think of football are those like Liverpool and Manchester United- the big teams covered by Sky Sports and BT. I also think of smaller teams like Millwall and Charlton- due to those around me supporting them. I do not, however, think of women’s football teams or players as it is not covered as much. There is simply not enough attention and support for it and therefore, it is not the first thing to spring to my mind when thinking of football.

Before going into the recent coverage of equal pay in football, I think that it is best to start with how football clubs earn money:

  1. One way that a club may earn money is through prize money. Football is a very competitive industry, with teams fighting to win the league or cup titles. In doing this, they get paid, depending on how well they perform overall. The lower down they are, the less they get. Similarly, if they are in a lower league, they will get less money. A team that is in League 2 will not earn as much for their league finish as a Championship team, it is just common sense. An example of prize money can be seen when Manchester United won the FA Cup final in 2016, beating Crystal Palace, and earning themselves £1.8 million.
  2. Another way they earn money is through broadcasting. Sky Sports and BT Sports own the rights to cover all Premier League games. They paid 5 billion pounds in a deal that ran from 2015-2019. This money was equally split across the teams which gave each club roughly £81 million.
  3. A third way of earning money is through player transfers. Clubs buy or sell players to other clubs. In doing this, they make a lot of money. In 2014, Liverpool sold Suarez to Barcelona for £75 million.
  4. Clubs also make a lot of money through sponsorship. Brands pay huge amounts of money for clubs to advertise them. For example Chevrolet pays Manchester United roughly £50 million per year to have their logo and name on United’s uniform. In addition to this, Adidas pays £75 million per year to sponsor kits. All of this money adds up.
  5. A more obvious way of making money is through match day revenue. Money made from ticket sales, programmes, food and drink all add up. Football clubs are able to pick these prices themselves based on the support for their clubs. If there is a high demand on match day tickets for a Liverpool game, the club will naturally increase the price of tickets in order to gain themselves more profits. Not only this, but executive lounges, boxes and comfortable seats are also up for sale on match days at higher prices.
  6. Aside from match day, clubs can make money through stadium tours and renting out rooms for events. I had my school prom at Charlton’s ground and I can only imagine how many functions are held in the same room.
  7. Finally, clubs make a lot of money by selling kits and merchandise around the world. Big teams like Liverpool and Manchester United are known across the globe which can make a lot of money. From personal experience, I know that there are a lot of shops in Spain that sell merchandise for English teams.

After looking at how football clubs make money, let’s move on to the topic of this blog: equal pay for women in football. There has been a lot of attention on this topic recently, with the US Women’s National Soccer team campaigning to make it happen. Not only did the team chant “equal pay” (along with the crowds) after winning the women’s World Cup last year, but they also made the choice to wear their warm-up shirts inside-out in order to send a message to the US Soccer Federation. Further to this, the 28 players filed a lawsuit against the Federation. The team sought to get $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act. However, Judge Gary Klusner rejected the players’ claim that they are underpaid, compared to US men. The players were quick to respond to this decision, with US striker Megan Rapinoe tweeting: “We will never stop fighting for equality.”

But, is it inequality? Are these players getting paid less based on their gender? The answer is no. Football is a complex, highly competitive industry. Lots of factors have to be considered when paying a player. For example, will this player get the club more views and support? Will this player get more goals for the club? Is this player any good? If the answer is yes, then they will get paid more because they are earning the club more money. To put this into perspective, let’s compare two male footballers. Mohamed Salah is a well-known attacker that plays for Liverpool. As I have mentioned, Liverpool is a successful club in the Premier League. Lee Gregory is a less-known attacker that plays for Stoke City, a club in the Championship. Whilst Salah gets paid £250k a week, Gregory gets paid £20k a week. These individuals have the same job and play the same position, yet Gregory gets £230k less a week than Salah. This massive difference is due to a number of factors. Firstly, Liverpool rank top, or near top, of the Premier League compared to Stoke City, that are 17th in the Championship. Due to Liverpool being in the Premier League, they earn more from sponsorships, prize money, match day profits, merchandise around the world (I don’t recall seeing a Stoke City top in Spain) and of course, broadcasting through Sky Sports and BT Sports. They have the money to spend on their players. If Stoke City paid that much for Gregory, I doubt there would still be a Stoke City football team. In addition to this, I’m sure Salah is a much better football player (I can’t say I’ve seen them both play- just based on common sense), otherwise Liverpool wouldn’t have paid for him in the first place. Salah is also a big name in football, everyone seems to know him- I can’t say the same for Gregory. These reasons, in combination with each other, show why football players are not paid the same.

Now, if male football players are not paid the same, for doing the same job, then how can female football players demand equal pay? It is not based on gender. It is based on a lot of factors. If women’s football was as popular as men’s and Salah’s female equivalent was not getting the same salary, then I would be questioning it too. But this is not the case. The female football industry does not earn anywhere near what the men’s football industry earns. They do not get the same support at match days or get as many sponsorships, or even sell as much merchandise. They do not have the money to be spending loads on players or the industry will no longer exist. It just isn’t possible.

I’m all for equal pay across the genders, but this is not a gender debate. Female players are not paid less based on their gender, they are paid less because their industry does not earn the same as men’s football. It is just not possible to pay players the same. I’m interested to hear your opinions on this topic, and due to the success of last weeks poll, I shall add some questions to my Instagram story so I can see your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Equal Pay in Football

  1. This was a really well-informed and relevant post! I think I have a knee-jerk reaction to the concept of women getting paid less for anything.

    I think in an ideal world it would be nice to increase the speculation around women’s footie in order to try and increase viewers and revenue and get the industry a bit more money, but even if that happened I doubt they’d ever be on the same platform as the men.


    1. Yeah I totally get you when women do not get paid the same as men, but football is such a complex industry where men don’t even get paid the same! If it becomes more popular then they will get more money but everyone seems to support men’s football over women’s so men will always get more. I’m sure if you looked into it, some top female football players would be on a higher wage that those lower down in men’s football. It’s too complex for everyone to get equal pay.


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