You have to be from the land of the luddites to oppose equal pay in sport for men and women.
Perhaps there’s an argument where men play a longer form of their chosen sport than women – in tennis Grand Slam events, for example, males play the best-of-five sets and females the best-of-three. There’s perhaps a case to be made for a sort of pro rata rate of prize money based upon the amount of time spent on court.
But in sports where both genders go through the same level of physical toil, like football for example, there really is no viable reason why women still get paid less than men.
So hats off then to the US Soccer Federation, who have reasonably announced that they will pay their male and female players the same rates as part of a new collective bargaining agreement.
Of course, international footballers aren’t salaried, and so the amended pay scale relates to the win bonuses paid – in real terms, the US women could probably be better paid than the men now given that they are ranked considerably higher and, therefore, win more games.
However, all parties have agreed that all bonuses paid will be pooled and split equally, and so you can see why both sexes will be keen to get wins on the board in this unique democracy.
Will other governing bodies in football, and other sports entirely, follow suit? Who knows, but it often only takes somebody to blaze a trail for others to copy.
And besides, some other sports and organisations already have equal pay for men and women….
Competing on a level playing field, women get paid the same amount as men when taking to the saddle in both Flat and National Hunt racing.
That includes the same fee for taking a ride, and also the same percentage slice of any prize money that they might earn.
Horse racing is a rarity in that males and females contest many of the same races, and a lack of gender pay gap is testament to a sport that hasn’t always had the same progressive attitude – the successes of Rachael Blackmore and co have well and truly put an end to any prehistoric views in the paddock.
Grand Slam Tennis
The four Grand Slams in tennis have been paying equal prize money to male and female players for some time now – the US Open was the first to pioneer that in 1973, thanks in part to Billie Jean King’s campaigning. Wimbledon, perhaps unsurprisingly, took until 2007 to catch up.
It’s not something that is universally popular in tennis, with 20-time major winner Novak Djokovic openly questioning such equality. In an interview back in 2016, he claimed that prize money in the sport should be ‘fairly distributed’ based upon ‘who attracts more attention, spectators and who sells more tickets.’
Irish International Football
The best part of a year in advance of the US Soccer Federation, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) had already done their bid to eradicate the gender pay gap.
In August 2021, FAI chiefs sat down with Seamus Coleman and Katie McCabe, the captains of the men’s and women’s international sides, and Coleman agreed that he and his teammates would reduce their match fee when representing the Emerald Isle.
The FAI agreed to match their commitment, and those combined efforts brought the women’s pay grade up to parity. Speaking about the landmark moment, McCabe said:
“We have taken a huge step forward with this deal, and have shown the world what can be achieved through unity as we offer male and female international players the same opportunities.
“Seamus Coleman and his teammates deserve credit for being brave enough to support us in such a progressive way on this issue.”
In 2004, the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) confirmed that male and female players would have the chance to battle it out for the same levels of prize money across the board.
To further that, in 2018 they created a new competition – the Volleyball Nations League – in which the teams not only picked up the same purse, but each player also wears a shirt bearing their own name and that of a member of the other sex that shares their number – a concept known as ‘Equal Jersey’.
“It is a sport [volleyball] where, on an international level, women and men compete on a level playing field, with equal opportunities, equal pay and equal attention,” said Volleyball World chief Finn Taylor.
“By launching the Equal Jersey campaign, we aim to showcase that volleyball is universal.”
For many years, women in surfing were treated as second class citizens – sadly, a common theme across much of the sporting landscape.
However, that changed in 2019 when the World Surf League (WSL) – the de-facto governing body of surfing – announced that men and women would be paid the same for competitions that they sanctioned.
Equal by Nature. From 2019, female and male athletes will receive equal prize money across all WSL controlled events. #CatchThisWave pic.twitter.com/oG7vVAru8J
— World Surf League (@wsl) September 5, 2018
Stephanie Gilmore, a seven-time world champion, welcomed the news.
“The prize money is fantastic, but the message means even more,” she said.
“My fellow women athletes and I are honoured by the confidence in us, and inspired to reward this decision with ever higher levels of surfing.”