Should Female Footballers Get Equal Pay? An Economic Argument
A few days ago, fans across the globe saw the end of an enthralling World Cup series as France took home the coveted title this year. And I’ll be honest, I’m not usually much of a sports enthusiast. But when everyone in your family’s cheering by the telly, spitting verses of critique, it’s kind of hard not to join in. The wins and losses, though not our own, were shared and felt, as the world came together in the spirit of football.
All the celebratory commotion did make me think of another issue, however. Was there ever a time that the women’s World Cup was just as rewarded as the men’s? In 2015, the total payout for the women’s World Cup was a measly $15 million, compared to the men’s World Cup the previous year of $576 million. That’s nearly forty times as much. Yes, you read that right. Forty times.
Now, before you get your pitchforks out and start an all-out hashtag war, it’s prudent to realize that the prize money parity between male and female footballers needs more scrutiny than merely comparing final contract figures. Like pay gaps in any field of work, there are underlying economic realities of the free market attached to the issue.
Let’s start with some Econ 101: the basics of derived demand. How much a worker earns from their labour is directly proportionate to how much demand there is for the service they provide, or the product they make. In conjunction with this theory, let’s now think of football as a chain reaction. Male footballers attract bigger crowds and larger viewership on television. These in turn attract big sponsorship and branding deals, which results in higher revenue being earned from each match, leading to fat cheques and large monetary contracts for the players. The main reason female footballers get paid less is because, unfortunately, there’s not as much demand for it.
This brings us to a difficult question that requires deeper introspection than some flimsy Twitter outrage. Why do people not watch women’s football with the same ardour as men’s? A football match is the exactly the same for both men and women. Players spend ninety or so minutes on the field, playing by the same rules, unmodified and unchanged. So what gives?
Some arguments have been made about how women’s sport isn’t as interesting, because female athletes aren’t as physically strong and cannot compete at the highest level possible. Contrastingly, if you look at certain other sports, both men’s and women’s leagues are watched more or less at the same capacity. In fact, for sports like netball and gymnastics, women attract larger viewership than their male counterparts.
The funny thing is though, the very people who want equal pay for women football players haven’t adapted to the game themselves. If we don’t watch the matches and follow the teams with the same level of obsession as we did for Mbappe a few weeks ago, can we really blame sponsors if they don’t see a similar potential in the women’s game? Can we really expect the situation to change? Are we, then, not part of the same problem?
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