I’ve spent most of the last month covering Women’s World Cup having a look at the level of competition and everything around it, from a close distance, and one thing that has been coming up more than ever after it was the question of “should women football players get paid more?” And that’s what we’ll go through while summing up Women’s World Cup in France because frankly, most people that either say yes and no, aren’t looking at it from both sides. The aim of this blog? To do that.
Oh, and full disclosure. My girlfriend is a footballer.
Women Aren’t Better Than Men in Football…
On the internet, one of the most frequent comment that you will see under posts about “should women football players get paid more?” is that “men would destroy women in a match.”
This is something that my girlfriend and I discussed, and you know what? It’s true.
Women aren’t better than men in football. Regardless of the accuracy and skills, if you don’t have the speed and strength that a man has, you are going to be at a disadvantage. That’s biology. Growing up, that does not matter. When you get older, it gets noticeable quickly. Pato Jerzak, my girlfriend, she played with males until the age of 13, as equal. After that, the males started to become stronger and faster, giving a significant advantage naturally.
The question you have to ask yourself is, “does it matter?”
Do you not support your team that plays in the Swedish league because they aren’t Barcelona? Do you support your local club because they aren’t of the highest standard? You do because at the end of the day if being the best was the only thing that mattered, a lot of clubs would not exist right now. A Sunday League player even with fewer abilities than a pro can leave as much heart on the pitch than a pro, even if not as great. 3rd tier in Germany gets crowds of 20,000+. Why? As people support their teams, whether they are great, okay, or just average. And if you don’t, are you a fan of football? Or are you a fan of success? Let me tell you. I watched some incredible scenes of football at this World Cup. Both on the field and on the stand.
Men are faster and stronger. That has absolutely nothing to do with how great a game is to watch. If both women are weaker than men, they are on an equal level. You won’t notice that. I’ve watched hundreds of below-average male games supporting both my team or national teams. Do you know how hard it is to watch Ireland beat Gibraltar 1-0 with all the respect to Gibraltar?
Are women as capable when it comes to technique? Yes and no. What man and woman are you comparing? Some are better, and some are obviously worse. It’s fair to say that there are a lot more skilled men and that the competition for men is overall much higher. But how are all women meant to be as skilled, if the significant majority have to either have a full-time or part-time job? Being a professional means that you are “engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as an amateur.” That doesn’t apply when it comes to females. Being a professional as a woman means that in most cases, you are also working a different job. Very few, even in the top leagues, get to be fully involved in football. How are you meant to be as great as males if you aren’t given the opportunity for that?
I’ve been to 4 different games during the Women’s World Cup. The first one? Spain versus China. It was poor. No goals. Nobody wanted to score. Both teams were going to play in the next stages in the World Cup, so it didn’t really matter to them. That was poor football, but you know what? Japan versus Poland in Russia last year was also very poor. The teams did not play football for the last 15 minutes. Japan was happy with losing 1-0 because they were going to qualify anyway. But I’ve also been to games like Sweden versus Canada, where I supported my girlfriend’s nation like it was my own, chanting with the fans, while dressed in their colors, witnessing incredible football, VAR drama, saved penalties, and everything you could ask for in a football game.
What matters is how much you leave on the pitch, regardless of the gender, nation, or club.
Should Women Football Players Get Paid More?
I get it — money matters. You don’t sponsor a club just for fun. You want to make a return on it. Most advocates for equal pay don’t look at that side of things or otherwise phrase it in a wrong way. Should women football players get paid more? Sure. But “equal” is a complicated matter. Does being the best footballer in the world position you in a place where you should make as much as Ronaldo or Messi?
That’s why it’s crucial to clarify what equal means for most women playing football.
Equal pay for women doesn’t mean getting paid millions. It means that if you are called a “professional” that you are able to what any professional is able to do, rather than being a professional and needing an extra job or two, at the same time. And that’s the issue. How is female football meant to be as competitive if it’s hard to make it more competitive in a scenario where young players hitting their adulthood can’t focus on football entirely, leaving that ability to only the elite?
What Can Be Done?
Fifa has been making great progress, and this World Cup is an example of that. We went from 250 people at Nigeria versus Canada in 1995 to over 38,000 at Sweden versus Canada in 2019. But there’s still a lot to be done by everyone, whether it’s countries following Norway’s example of equal pay for national team matches, or providing regulations that encourage growth in female football.
Right now, women football isn’t as popular as male football. But to not spend money on promotion because it’s not as popular is not a way to grow a sport. Any marketer knows that. Female football needs to grow in order to bring more money. Without money, it can’t do so. You see the US team complain about lack of money. The US isn’t the biggest issue. The big issue is all the other countries that aren’t getting enough to compete with the US.
$2,000 extra per month is what Messi makes in less than an hour from his club wages. There’s money out there for that. It won’t be an investment that will pay off to people paying that money tomorrow, but it’s an investment that needs to happen.
And frankly, women deserve it. Not just because they are committed but because it is men’s fault in the first place for why women’s football is so behind in the first place. 100 years ago, women’s football was attracting bigger crowds than today. Then the English FA banned it in 1921. A ban that would not be lifted until 1971. A country with rights banned women’s football. Take that in. And it wasn’t just the UK. It was also Norway, West Germany, France, and many others.
I’m not going to say that every player should give away their 1% of wages to fuel the women’s football, but do you need 7 cars?
Being a professional footballer as a woman is a bit like climate change. We see the issue. We want to solve it, yet when it comes to it, we see that there’s a cost involved, and we aren’t willing to spend money if it really doesn’t have to be spent. – Michael Smolski.
Summing up the Women’s World Cup in France
Views wise, on TV, the Women’s World Cup broke records all over the planet. Attendance wise, a lot more could have been done because while games like Sweden versus Canada had crowds of over 38,000, games like China versus Spain had less than 15,000. The reason behind it? Many. With marketing being the biggest one.
A question. How many times did you see the women’s World Cup ads before the tournament? The only ones I saw were the ones I searched for by myself.
The fan zones were great. The fans were great. The level of competition, also great. Sure, Thailand lost 13-0 to the US, but big defeats happen in the World Cup all the time whether women or men. Do you remember Brazil versus Germany?
Ultimately, what you want is a great experience watching your national (or others) team play. And summing up the Women’s World Cup in France, that’s what I felt. While supporting the nation of my girlfriend, Sweden. Should women football players get paid more, though? Statistically, this World Cup shows that TV viewers wise, great things are happening. The issue? Keeping these numbers up in league matches. That’s ultimately the goal. And it’s up to everyone to help with that. Should women football players get paid more? Absolutely. There’s no reason for someone to have to work while being a pro. It won’t get better without an investment.