Women's Sports: Australia leading the path for the USNWT

Australia have closed the pay gap between the Socceroos and Matildas

Football Federation Australia and Professional Footballers Australia announced on Tuesday their plans to close the pay gap between the Matilda’s and the Socceroos.

Under a new collective bargaining agreement, the Socceroos and Matildas will receive a 24 per cent share of an agreed aggregate of national team generated revenues in 2019-20. This will rise by 1% every following year. 

It reflects a growing feeling within the game that female footballers should be paid in a way that is reflective of their performances.

The Matilda's rank eighth in the world, whilst their male counterparts lie in just 44th.

Perhaps most impressively, FFA has introduced a three-tiered centralised contract system in which the best female footballers in Australia have their salary increased around $66,000 to $100,000. This is the same amount as the Socceroos.

Maternity leave is clearly an important factor considered by many female footballers and the new agreement will also provide an even higher level of support during pregnancy and returning to national team duty. 

Following the announcement, PFA chief executive John Didulica said: "This is a unique deal in world football and we believe sets the model for where all federations and players - male and female - can take the game to unlock the incredible social and commercial opportunity that, in particular, women's football presents.

"The deal is based on the principles of partnership, equality and investment. The players of today are investing in the future of Australian football because they believe in the game and they believe in each other."

Opportunity for the USNWT

The announcement is particularly impressive considering the ongoing lawsuit saga between US Soccer and the US National Women’s Team.

Led by star Megan Rapinoe, the USNWT filed a suit against their governing body over wage discrimination in comparison to their much less successful male counterparts.

Kathryn Gill, deputy CEO of Professional Footballers Australia came out will some words of encouragement following the deal: “In the end, it really wasn’t tough.

“Everyone involved is incredibly proud of what we've achieved.”

The USNWT might now be thinking there is light at the end of what seems a very long tunnel. 

If the Matildas are able to come to a similar agreement over equal pay, why are they not able to do the same? 

One of the main ways they could get further in their talks is by coming together with the USMNT.

Joining forces and using collective leverage, rather than trying to compete against each other in pleading their cases to U.S. Soccer could produce results quicker. It could also help both teams in the long run. 

“Here, we felt the teams together were far stronger and presented a far more reflective image of Australia rather than two teams separate," he adds. "The teams create a far more powerful commercial and social force together, and I see no reason why the U.S. wouldn’t be able to adopt a similar model,” said PFA CEO John Didulica. 

“It's not just about more leverage – the value proposition is far stronger if they're negotiating together because the story you tell is a lot richer.”

In Australia, equality was achieved by giving the Socceroos and Matildas equal percentages of their prize money.

The USWNT are likely to disagree with a move like this, however, and rightly so as the prize money offered by FIFA to the men’s and women’s teams are significantly distant.

By contrast, the PFA in Australia has instead tried to apply pressure on FIFA publicly to close the gap in prize money.

“We'll keep lobbying on that from afar, but we just didn’t think it was fair to pool prize money,” Kathryn Gill says.

Didulica believes, however, that in football anything can happen and that there is still hope for the US national side.

“Soccer in the United States continues to be a step out of the mainstream, so the dynamics of it are very similar to Australia – it has its loyal constituencies but it hasn’t been fully embraced within the mainstream,” he says. “What football can do that no other sport can is put men and women on the same pedestal that exists in boardrooms and wherever else in society men and women stand equally. Football can deliver that.

“It is such a powerful point of difference that soccer can create from other sports in the U.S. where that's never going to happen. In football, we have this unique opportunity to stand side by side, and we're the only team sport that can do that. A country like the U.S. should embrace that. It would make it such a powerful force, not just financially but socially, too.”

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