Pay up, FIFA. You too, U.S. Soccer Federation.
The Women's World Cup showcased soccer at its very best: Riveting, non-stop action that was watched by more than 1 billion around the world. But when it comes to rewarding the athletes who put on the show, those who govern soccer demonstrated again why they remain among the most sexist organizations in sports.
FIFA, soccer's global governing body, is sitting on $2.7 billion in reserves. But FIFA allocated just $30 million in prize money for the teams competing in the Women's World Cup, with only $4 million going to the U.S. team that won the championship Sunday in Lyon, France. Meanwhile, FIFA will dole out $440 million to the teams that play in the next Men's World Cup in Qatar in 2022, with the winning team scheduled to receive $38 million.
It's little wonder that fans chanted "Equal pay! Equal pay! Equal pay!" as FIFA President Gianni Infantino prepared to hand out World Cup medals to the U.S. and Netherlands teams. When Infantino was giving U.S. star Megan Rapinoe her golden ball trophy, he reportedly told her, "Let's have a conversation." Rapinoe responded, "I'd love to."
They have a lot to talk about.
FIFA has a long history of double standards in its disparate support for men's and women's soccer. Infantino recently bragged that FIFA gave $8 million to women's teams that released their players for the World Cup. FIFA gave another $11.5 million to help the 24 teams prepare to participate in the tournament. But that pales when compared with the $209 million FIFA gave to men's teams that sent players to the 2018 Men's World Cup and the $48 million it offered men's teams for tournament preparation.
Only five of the 31 members of FIFA's executive council are women - the minimum allowed by the organization's bylaws. And it was only five years ago that then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter outraged women players and their fans by suggesting that female players should start wearing "tighter shorts" to generate more interest in their sport.
Here's a news flash for FIFA. The U.S. women's 2-0 win in the championship match drew a TV audience of 14 million in the United States. That makes it one of the most watched soccer broadcasts in the nation - men or women - ever. And Nike recently announced that the U.S. women's team's home jersey is the No. 1 soccer seller in history on its website.
Closer to home, since 2016, the U.S. women's national team has generated $1 million more in revenues for the U.S. Soccer Federation than the U.S. men's national team has. All told, the U.S. women have won four World Cups and four Olympic gold medals, while the U.S. men's team didn't even qualify for the 2018 World Cup. But the members of the U.S. women's national team earn a meager 38% of the pay given to players on the U.S. men's national team.
The U.S. Soccer Federation should have addressed the issue years ago. Its inaction left members of the U.S. women's team no option but to file a lawsuit last March against the organization, demanding equal pay and playing conditions.
The inequities at the national and international governing bodies are blatantly obvious. Parity is long overdue.
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