• condetrimental

Ireland Moves Toward Closing Gender Wage Gap: USWNT’s Glimmer of Legal Hope

BY: EMILY COSTANZO

Image via Forbes


Last week, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) reached a monumental agreement to pay their senior men’s and women’s teams equal match fees.[1] Logistically, this means that the men’s team will be required to accept a reduction in their usual match fees, with the FAI matching that amount to “level” the payments for the women.[2] Although it may be reasonable to assume that the men’s side is frustrated with this cut in their pay, it is one the team readily embraced.


Katie McCabe, captain of the women’s squad, said of her male counterparts, “Seamus Coleman and his team-mates in the men’s squad also deserve credit for being brave enough to support us in such a progressive way on this issue.”[3]


The way in which these two teams banded together with the shared goal of equal pay in mind is something that many professional leagues across the world have considered pursuing, but few have actually pursued.


Prior to the deal, the men received €2,500, with the women receiving €500. For reference, that is $2,956.13 and $591.25 USD, respectively.[4] “It really sends out the message that ‘we are one’ and it is a great time because both teams are embarking on a big qualifying phase,” said McCabe.[5]


Despite this giant leap forward for Ireland, it is important to note that the FAI will still not be responsible for payments made on the world stage. Prize money awarded to the World Cup champions, for instance, will still be dispersed under the authority of FIFA. Unfortunately, the disparity between prize monies awarded to the men and women at this stage is drastic.


The French national team, champions of the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup, received $38 million in prize money.[6] Conversely, the United States, as champions of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, received $4 million.[7]


This mind-boggling difference in awards, in part, motivated the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) to file their first lawsuit in the fight for equal pay amongst the men’s and women’s national teams. In 2019, 28 members of the USWNT officially filed a federal lawsuit, alleging violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[8] The athletes went after U.S. Soccer, as their governing body, for gender-based discrimination.


Fast forward to July 2021 and one year after Judge R. Gary Klausner dismissed the lawsuit, the USWNT and their legal team announced that they would file an appeal of the decision.[9] The dismissal, in part, relied upon the court’s finding that the women received more than the men per match, with the former receiving $220,747 and the latter receiving $212,639 per game.[10] These figures were analyzed and provided by U.S. Soccer.


On their face, these statistics are confusing—are the women actually being paid more? Is the gender gap the opposite of what most of society assumes it to be?


The USWNT and their legal team offer one answer and one answer alone: no. According to them, this conclusion ignores the success of both teams on the pitch.[11] To return to the aforementioned example of the World Cup—and while examining only the five years covered in the lawsuit—the women’s squad has won the tournament twice. The men, on the other hand, have failed to even qualify.


According to the appeal, “The court did not account for performance—specifically, that the women had to be the best in the world to make the same amount per game as the much less successful men.”[12]


Although this fight is far from over, witnessing progressive steps forward in other countries’ soccer programs offers a glimmer of hope for the USWNT. Ireland’s decision to pay their men’s and women’s senior teams equal match fees demonstrates that the same payment structure is possible elsewhere, and hopefully, it is not long before “elsewhere” is the United States.

[1] https://www.irishtimes.com/sport/soccer/international/fai-reach-agreement-on-equal-international-match-fees-for-senior-men-and-women-1.4660146 [2] https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/58385989 [3] https://www.irishtimes.com/sport/soccer/international/fai-reach-agreement-on-equal-international-match-fees-for-senior-men-and-women-1.4660146 [4] Id. [5] Id. [6] https://www.goal.com/en-us/news/world-cup-prize-money-how-much-do-the-mens-team-earn-compared-to-/1wk1f3wl235ug136bxwo721wmk [7] Id. [8] https://www.goal.com/en-us/news/world-cup-prize-money-how-much-do-the-mens-team-earn-compared-to-/1wk1f3wl235ug136bxwo721wmk [9] https://www.espn.com/soccer/united-states-usaw/story/4437227/uswnt-to-fight-us-soccer-in-equal-pay-row-appeal-judges-decision-as-it-defies-reality [10] Id. [11] Id. [12] Id. (emphasis added)