Megan Rapinoe and the US women’s team have finally won their equal pay dispute and will receive the same as the men’s national team. But what does it mean for the wider world of women’s football?
Will the equal pay ruling for the US Women’s National Soccer team have any impact on women’s football elsewhere?
She’s the face of soccer in the US. She advocates for LGBT rights. She’s sponsored by Nike – as well as other top brands – and she was named by Time magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in 2020.
“So ladies and gentlemen, the best FIFA women’s player of the year officially is… Megan Rapinoe! Congratulations!”FIFA
Megan Rapinoe has won the World Cup twice alongside her US teammates.
But her biggest victory off the pitch may be equal pay, which she’s been fighting for since 2016.
The US women’s national team wanted to be paid the same amount as their male counterparts. So they launched a lawsuit.
And after a long battle, last week, the US soccer governing body reached an agreement with Megan Rapinoe and the other 27 squad members.
They agreed to equal pay terms with the men’s team, and received 24 million dollars in compensation.
“It’s a herculean task to win a World Cup, certainly in the fashion that we did with all that we were fighting for off the field, and this felt just as herculean or probably bigger in so many ways so…I’m excited about moving forward.”Sky Sports News
The decision has been billed as a monumental moment – not just for the US women’s team – but for all of women’s sport.
But how will it affect women’s football in other countries?
The problem for equal pay claims in the rest of women’s football, is that US women’s soccer is unique.
Because the women’s national team is actually more successful than the men’s team.
The men have only ever been as far as the quarter-finals of a World Cup, in 2002. And they didn’t even qualify for the last one in 2018.
That win in 2019 was seen by 20 million people in the US.
The women on the other hand…
“For the fourth time, the United States of America are crowned champions of the world and for the very first time, they’ve done it on European soil. It is finished at the Stade de Lyon in the final in victory and joy for the United States.”FIFA
It was the most watched game of football – women’s or men’s – since the last World Cup final the women’s team won in 2015.
So when it came to equal pay, it was a bit of a no-brainer.
Even chat show host Jimmy Kimmel was firmly in favour of Megan Rapinoe’s equal pay campaign.
“So this has become a big topic of conversation, you want equal pay. Which I think…by the way I think it’s a mistake. Shouldn’t you be paid more because you…?”
“Honestly, I know the men’s tournament is a bigger umbrella overall, but when it comes to the US teams, how many World Cups has the men’s team won? None of them…right?”Jimmy Kimmel Live
The very fact that Megan Rapinoe appears on one of the biggest talk shows in America demonstrates how big she, and women’s football, is in the US.
But that’s not the case elsewhere.
“How good are the top women’s players now Wrighty? Let’s be brutally honest…how good are they, because I’m watching it thinking the standard is getting better and better and better every time I watch. Are we going to get to a stage in a few years…or maybe sooner, I don’t know…where a top women’s player may actually play in the men’s professional league?
“Why would they want to play in the men’s professional league when the calibre of player that’s coming through and that’s going to continue to come through is going to make the women’s league…why do they need to go to the men’s league? They’re going to be brilliant in the women’s league!”Good Morning Britain
Like most things in sport, it ultimately comes down to money.
Audited financial statements obtained by the Wall Street Journal revealed that from 2016, the women’s game generated more money than the men’s game in the US.
When you compare that to the women’s game in England – where female players have only just won the right to maternity pay – you can see that they are an awful long way away from where the US women are in their equality battle.
That’s despite the Women’s Super League attracting some of the world’s best players.
The men’s game in England is also much more popular – and profitable – than men’s soccer in the US, which widens the gap even further.
But at least the US womens’ victory opens up the conversation. Although their model is very different, there is at least some precedent now.
And that’s surely got to help other female footballers in their own battles for equality.
Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Imy Harper.