BY ALEXIA JAMES
Hope Solo, the US women’s football player, has said that it is a sign of male chauvinism that the prize money in the male world cup is so much higher than the prize money in the women’s world cup. She says FIFA must be a male chauvinist organisation as a result.
The women’s game has prize money of £24 million while the men’s game shares prize money of £315 million. The gender pay gap is a real issue in the lives of millions of women but let’s face it, when it comes to football there are some cold hard facts worth recognising.
3.5 Billion people watched the last men’s world cup whereas the viewing figures for the women’s game peak at 12 million. The revenue from the sale of television rights for the men’s game dwarf the revenue that the women’s game is able to generate. It is simply a bigger spectacle. The standard of the men’s game outclasses the women’s game completely. There is no real comparison between the two games either in terms of the money that they generate or in terms of the sheer spectacle involved.
It is not chauvinism that rewards the men’s game, it is pure business. When the women’s game is able to generate the same audience and revenue figures as the men’s game it will be time to make sure that the prize money is the same. Until then talking about awarding prize money that is the same in both games is artificial.
Women’s tennis has more of an argument for equality of prize money than women’s football. The standard of women’s tennis to watch is much higher than women’s football in comparison to the men’s game. Regardless, the audience figures for men’s tennis remain higher than for women’s tennis meaning that the prize money will also remain higher.
In women’s tennis the competitions take place at the same time as the men’s competitions and so interest can be generated off the back of the men’s game. In women’s football the competitions stand alone and have to compete to generate interest. As stand-alone competitions they simply do not generate sufficient audience figures to justify higher prize money. The prize money in women’s football has increased over time to reflect the greater interest paid to women’s football. It is only when it is compared to the much more successful men’s game that a disparity is seen.
It is easy to complain that the women’s game does not earn as much prize money as the men’s game but it is going too far to suggest that this is a result of male chauvinism. The women’s game is a spectacle on a much smaller scale than the men’s game. Everything about it is smaller including the prize money. To argue that there should be the same prize money for men and women is the same as arguing that there should be the same prize money for snooker as football. This is not to take into account the massive disparity in revenue generated by both games. In sport as in life if you generate a bigger bang you can command bigger bucks.
The gender gap is a real evil when men and women are paid different amounts to do the same job. It is entirely wrong to compensate women less for an equal effort and outcome than their male counterparts. Football is different. The two games do not generate the same interest and revenues. They are not equally valuable and so shouldn’t be rewarded as if they are. No one in life is rewarded according to how valuable they think there effort should be. We are rewarded according to how valuable our effort is. Women’s football manages to pull in smaller audiences and create a less valuable product than the men’s game. There is less money in the women’s game as a result.
Ordinary women fighting to be recognised for the work they put in are not assisted by women footballers demanding a higher slice of the pie. The good arguments for equal pay are lost when they are applied to football. Women in football should be happy that the prize money in their game has increased without constantly looking to the more successful men’s game as a comparator.