The euphoria of the USA winning the Women's World Cup was still burning bright this morning, but the afterglow of the historic victory has been tarnished by multiple reports that FIFA is paying the female winners a tiny fraction of what it paid the male winners from last year's tournament.
While the German men's team received $35 million for beating Argentina in Brazil last summer, the United States women got only $2 million for last night's victory over Japan in Canada. So why the discrepancy?
You'll be shocked to learn that FIFA, an organization embroiled in a sweeping corruption scandal, treats women players and women's tournaments differently than the men. FIFA would never entertain the thought of having a men's World Cup game played on artificial turf, but they insisted all games for this year's women's World Cup be played on the stuff, despite facing a lawsuit from top female players, even turning down an offer from Scott's to sod all the venues for free.
None of this is surprising when you consider Sepp Blatter's stance on the female game. The embattled, resigned-but-maybe-not FIFA president once opined the women's game could benefit from sexier uniforms:
"They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men -- such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?"
It's no wonder the sport's governing body doesn't bat an eye when giving drastically different amounts of prize money to men's and women's champions. Unfortunately, labor laws don't cover international soccer tournaments.
Can't Blame TV
The most common answer you'll hear to the unequal pay question is money: the Women's World Cup just didn't generate as much revenue as the men's version, and that's the reason for the discrepancy. While there's no doubt that attendance figures for the matches in Brazil in 2014 were higher than those in Canada in 2015 (due mainly to more teams and more hype for the men), there are a few reasons this argument might not hold up.
First, the amount of prize money for the female champions was announced last December, so it's not reflective of the actual revenue from the tournament or viewership of the matches. It was a predetermined amount based probably on FIFA's prediction on revenue and interest in the women's game.
And FIFA certainly underestimated the TV demand for these games, especially the final:
To put that Women's World Cup 15.2 overnight rating in perspective, the two College Football Playoff semis got 15.3 and 15.5.-- Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) July 6, 2015
Between 8:45 and 9 ET, 31 percent of US homes in major markets with a TV in use were watching women's soccer on Fox.-- Neil Best (@sportswatch) July 6, 2015
Last night's final was the most watched soccer game in U.S. television history, so there's little argument that the discrepancy in prize money was due to a smaller TV audience.
Sadly, the gap in pay between women and men isn't just for corporate America. Hopefully, by the time the 2019 Women's World Cup in France rolls around, that gap will have narrowed, if not obliterated. At least FIFA already announced it'll be played on grass.