In recent years, women’s soccer has experienced a surge in popularity and the global viewing audience for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is expected to reach one billion. Attention will be particularly high in the U.S. as the women’s team kick off the defense of their title when they play Thailand today. The growing profile of the women’s game has resulted in heightened debate and controversy about earnings and prize money in comparison with male soccer. In October 2018, FIFA announced that it was doubling total prize money at the Women’s World Cup from $15 million to $30 million. With the 32 male teams at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia competing for a $400 million pot, the gender gap at the women’s tournament in France is $370 million.
When France won the men’s event last year, the team took home $38 million in prize money – more than the total amount the 24 women’s teams are competing for. If the U.S. does manage to retain the trophy, they will only take home $4 million. That massive disparity has led to players themselves increasingly questioning the situation with U.S. World Cup winner Hope Solo telling the BBC that “male chauvinism in entrenched in FIFA and that these disparities are a reflection of that”.
The former goalkeeper has been one of the loudest voices for change and she is leading a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation over equal pay. Other countries are following suit with the Australian players’ union calling on FIFA to reward male and female players equally. After winning the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations 2016, the Nigerian team staged a sit-in protest at an Abuja hotel over outstanding payments. Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg also famously quit international soccer in 2017 due to the way the Norwegian Football Federation treats female players. Even though the federation subsequently agreed to pay male and female players equally to represent Norway, she has not made herself available for the 2019 tournament, saying there is “still a long way to go”.
*Click below to enlarge (charted by Statista)