Gender Pay Gap: Female footballers still fighting for equality in Football

United States of America v Netherlands : Final - 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France

“Equal pay. Equal Pay.” Came the shout from the crowd after the United States Women’s National Team won their fourth World Cup title.

The debate about gender equality and the wages gap was placed firmly on the agenda by the crowd and the team.

The US team is the most successful national women’s team ever with four World Cups and four Olympic medals to their name.

Despite this, they are still paid less than their male counterparts who have never won a major tournament and didn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup. 

Not one to shy away from activism, the USWNT has been the only women’s team to actively campaign for equal pay. In 2016 they sued the US Soccer Federation for gender discrimination.

They argued that they were being paid less for doing the same job as the men’s team. The case is still ongoing. Earlier this year 28 squad members filing a gender discrimination lawsuit just before the World Cup. The USWNT is determined to fight until they receive parity with the men’s team.

Women’s football has a chequered history. In England, the FA banned women from playing football for over 50 years. The ban was only lifted in 1971. In the US it wasn’t until the introduction of Title IX in 1972 that female sports funding was made equal with male funding.

This has led to slower development in the women’s game and therefore less sponsorship and funding. However, it has come a long in way in a short amount of time. It wasn’t long ago when female footballers had to use their annual leave to play for their country. Even, England only started paying its national team players as recently as five years ago.

Although it is still not seen as a career by many and some players still have a backup career. This week Chelsea goalkeeper Lizzie Durack announced her retirement from football at the age of 25. Leah Williamson, Arsenal and England centre back is a qualified accountant.

The FAWSL is the only full-time league in Europe meaning the majority of female footballers on the continent are only part-time and most likely have other jobs as well as playing football.

When establishing the Women’s Super League, the FA introduced a salary cap meaning clubs can use 40% of their turnover on the club’s wage bill.

However, there are no limits on individual salaries. This means that there is no minimum salary, and this can lead to players still needing outside sponsorship or other jobs to supplement their income. 


In the States, there is also a salary cap on National Women’s Super League teams. Each team has $421,500 to spend on player’s wages with the minimum salary set at $16,538 and a maximum of $46,200. The existence of salary limits is promising but it means there is a huge gap between the top and bottom earners.

Steph Houghton is reportedly the highest-earning female footballer in England is said to earn around £70,000-per-year from her salary and sponsorships. This is in stark contrast with some of the highest-paid male footballers such as Alexis Sanchez who is on a staggering £500,000-per-week.

This highlights the huge disparity between the men’s and women’s game.

In a pioneering move in 2017, Norway signed an equal pay agreement that saw the male players take a pay cut for those funds to be funnelled into the women’s team.

This agreement meant that both the male and female teams would be paid the same wages. It is still the only agreement like this. 

United States of America v Netherlands : Final - 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France

Women’s football is still rapidly growing and although it is very to reach the heights of men’s football any time soon it is continuously improving and evolving.

This will, in turn, bring more sponsorship which we are already seeing through Barclays sponsorship deal of the FA Women’s Super League.

After the success of the World Cup and the world finally taking notice of women’s football, now is the time to make real change and establish fair wages for female footballers.

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