The crowds. The chants. The fans. The jerseys. The loyalty that never dies. Check out any soccer stadium around the world and the crowd is going wild for their favorite players. But for a sport that is so famous around the world, there is one element of soccer that cannot be understood: the disparity between the paychecks for women’s and men’s soccer. From the highest paid men’s player to the highest paid women’s player, there are literally hundreds of millions of pounds in salary difference. This disparity is a glaring inequality in a world that should be more equitable. And it is past time to right this wrong.
Men’s Leaders Draw Large Salaries
When it comes to the way the men are paid who play the most popular sport in the world, it seems like the sky’s the limit. Currently, the highest paid male soccer player is Kylian Mbappe, who is set to earn $63MM per year, or $1.15MM a week. That is in addition to his $126MM signing bonus he acquired when he signed with Paris Saint-Germain. To put it into perspective, he earns $12MM more per year than his teammate Lionel Messi.
The most expensive soccer player in history, however, remains Neymar Junior, who transferred from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, and he makes 71 million euros each year. In addition to a player’s regular salary, you also need to factor in the lucrative endorsement contracts the men receive. In the case of Neymar, these are about 20 million euros per year, for companies such as Puma, Qatar Airways, Triller, and Red Bull.
Add to this duo players like Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United, with an estimated salary of $36MM, and you see where all of the soccer money is going. Not to the women.
A Paltry Display of Support for Women
On the other hand, women have simply not been paid as much as their male counterparts who play soccer. It’s not even close, and embarrassingly so. The story of Keira Walsh is gaining attention, but her salary is a paltry amount compared to her male counterparts. Midfielder Keira Walsh recently moved from Manchester City to Barcelona, with a world-record transfer fee of 400,000 Euros for a woman compared to Neymar’s 222MM Euros mentioned previously. with a world-record transfer fee of 400,000 pounds. This makes her the highest paid female soccer player, but a far cry from her male counterparts. She makes about $45,000 a year, and has a lucrative deal with Nike. Previously, Pernille Harder received 250,000 pounds as a transfer fee for Chelsea. These are definitely moves in the right direction, but the disparity with the men’s teams are still utterly laughable.
There are some moves that are headed in the right direction. Clubs have been increasing their spending in the hopes of creating “super teams,” and with the money comes a longer contract. “Walsh had a phenomenal Euro 2022. She was one of England’s best players — definitely their most consistent performer — and she came away with the player of the match trophy from the 2-1 victory over Germany in the final. But, even with all of that, no one would have predicted that this silent and deadly player would be the one to smash the transfer record.”
Walsh will be branded as a champion, but will still fall quite short of the men’s players. With posters all over the city, and young girls everywhere looking up to her, an entire culture and history of women in sports will fall on her shoulders. But she is still a far cry from the males in her sport.
Women’s soccer is increasingly looking to make the most of its reputation as a sport with equitable values. Underlining this, in their Annual Review of Football Finance, Deloitte suggested “sponsors should be attracted by a differentiated partnership proposition which can be, and should be in our opinion, consciously ‘unbundled’ from the men’s game and defined by empowerment, inclusivity, and far-reaching societal impact.”
Women soccer players are also trying to reach the echelon for sponsors that the men are reaching. Barcelona recently made a deal with Heura Foods to champion the vegan lifestyle. In their press release, the club stated that “the agreement between FC Barcelona and Heura Foods has been possible thanks to a series of common values such as the commitment to innovation, effort and teamwork” and “a shared desire to have a positive impact on society. Both brands will work on different initiatives to promote a more sustainable food system globally, while collaborating to give new impetus to women’s football.”
U.S. Moves Toward Its Goal
In the United States, players have been trying to do something about the stark inequality for years. In May of 2022, after many hard fought months, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced that they had reached a deal to pay the U.S. Men’s National Team and the U.S. Women’s National Team equally, to do away with the grossly large pay gap between men’s and women’s salaries. The agreement runs through 2028 and even gave the women’s team $22MM in back pay.
“We hope that this Agreement and its historic achievements in not only providing for equal pay but also in improving the training and playing environment for national team players will similarly serve as the foundation for continued growth of women’s soccer both in the United States and abroad,” Becky Sauerbrunn, a player on the women’s team and president of the United States Women’s National Team Players Association said.
As with most things, the pendulum is moving very slowly. But for young female soccer players around the globe, it is time for them to get paid what they are worth. Clubs, sponsors, and fans in general need to see the value in the women’s league and pay them accordingly. For a plethora of young girls around the world, they deserve to shatter the glass soccer ceiling and make equal pay.