Breaking Down The Sports Gender Gap


In the realm of athletics, a lot of the funding is solely based off of sponsorships and how much each company thinks the team is worth. This is also related to the size of each teams’ budget. Typically, male leagues will tend to have a larger range of sponsorships and an overall bigger budget therefore, resulting in them being able to pay their team more.

Why do some teams have more money than others? Why do male leagues typically have millions more than females? Budgets come from sponsorships and sponsorships are based off performance on both an individual and team scale. Sponsorships for the league itself are determined by viewership.  The higher the television ratings the higher the sponsorship value. According to Fox, an average of 25.4 million people watched the US-Japan game in 2015, and according to FIFA, the Men’s World Cup Final game generated around 715.1 million viewers. It’s not only viewership but the attendance at the games generates revenue as well. Average women’s national soccer attendance generally hovers around 9,000 per game whereas the men consistently generate over 32,000 per game. In terms of sponsorships, Barclays paid the equivalent of $57 million to sponsor the Premier League, the most popular soccer league in the world. The women’s world cup total sponsorship was only $17 million that’s compared to the Men’s World Cup generated $529 million for the one world cup.  Budgets for leagues come from viewers but the amount of views one team or league gets is based on how well that team is marketed.  In essence all money is derived from how many people watch the sport.  

This creates quite a conundrum for women’s soccer.  Their success has not generated the viewership numbers necessary to get large sponsorship deals. The question is why? The answer isn’t that male teams are better equipped or better teams in general because based on success they’re not. The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has won three world cups, (1991, 1999, and 2015) and took second place in 2011. The USWNT is the top ranked team in Women’s FIFA. By contrast the Men’s National Team has not enjoyed nearly the same amount of success. In fact, 1990 was the first time in 40 years that the US even qualified for the World Cup, and they have never, in their entire history, won a World Cup before.

The lack of sponsorship dollars and the minimal viewership have lead to a situation in which female athletes make much less than their male counterparts.  This predicament has led to the U.S. Women filing a complaint against U.S. Soccer alleging that they are guilty of wage discrimination.

One of the  major players in the complaint against U.S. Soccer happens to be the highest-paid female soccer athlete, an athlete who makes $81 million less than the highest paid male player, Cristiano Ronaldo. The athlete in this scenario is Alex Morgan.  She only receives about one million dollars in endorsements from ChapStick and other companies, and she makes $450,000 playing professionally.

The pay difference issue extends beyond individual players.  In fact, it’s even more glaring to look at the difference across leagues. In World Cups scenarios FIFA shells out  $33 million more for male champions than females. When a male team wins the World Cup the team is rewarded $35 million whereas it’s a mere $2 million for any women’s team. The pay difference extends to professional leagues as well.  In the MLS male athletes earn a minimum of $35,125 and that’s not including sponsorships. The average wage in the league calculates to about $160,000 without endorsements, and it’s pretty easy to see how that creates a major pay gap considering female athletes in the NWSL without a federation exemption max out at $39,700.

The gender pay gap in sports is even more significant than the one that unfortunately still exists in society at large. In 2015, women still only made 80 cents for every dollar that men receive and maybe that is why these two teams receive different pays. According to the AAUW, the average median wage for full-time male workers is $51,212 and women a mere $40,742 which is an 80 percent ratio difference. Missouri alone puts a pay ration of 78 percent between genders as males are at an average pay of $48,897 and women at $35,742.

It’s clear that a gender gap exists from viewership to sponsorship to pay.  That it exists in everyday life is unfortunately seen as a given.  However, athletics often holds itself up as an ideal.  It’s an arena where gender and race and anything beyond performance doesn’t matter.  At least that’s what they want you to believe.  They want you to believe it’s a true meritocracy.  In reality men’s and women’s sports are far from equal.  Women were given the right to work the same jobs and do the same duties as men, so why can’t they be given the same wages as well?  It’s a question society refuses to answer, and until it does all promises of equality will ring hollow.

Categories: Opinion, Sports

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