Sun, Oct 15, 2017 - Page 11 News List

US women’s soccer’s equal pay bid bolstered


The US Soccer Federation has long justified paying the men’s national team more than the women in part because, it argues, the men’s team earns more money.

That rationale took a beating this week, when the men’s team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, a shocking result that also hurts US Soccer’s bottom line.

“The women have always been doing the same job as the men, for the same employer and doing it better — not, at least as good, but better,” said Jeffrey Kessler, the labor lawyer who is representing the women in the complaint to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “The fact that the men did not make the World Cup just underscores, emphasizes, emphatically emboldens the point.”

As women’s sports have grown more popular, so has the pressure on sports teams to re-examine the pay policy for male and female players.

Norway this week said it would pay its men and women’s national soccer players equally for the first time.

US Hockey earlier this year said it would do the same.

Relative to their competition, the US women’s team has dramatically out-performed the men. The US women won World Cup titles in 1991, 1999 and 2015, plus Olympic gold medals in 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

In that span, the men have advanced past the Round of 16 in just one World Cup, and have not won a single Olympic medal.

In the past decade, the women’s team’s ranking has not dipped below No. 2; the men have not been higher than No. 14 and are currently ranked No. 28.

“The women’s national team has always been and will continue to be an important part of US Soccer and the overall landscape of the sport in this country,” a spokesman for US Soccer said.

Despite their success, the women’s team gets paid less.

In the complaint to the commission, the women said that they could earn a maximum of US$99,000 for 20 games compared to US$263,320 for the men.

The new contract signed by the women’s team this year narrowed that gap, but the women still earn less, Kessler said.

In fiscal years 2014 and 2015, US Soccer spent US$49.8 million on the men’s team and US$18.8 million on the women’s squad, an independent audit said.

US Soccer had estimated it would have a net profit of about US$5 million this year from women’s soccer and a US$1 million loss for the men’s program.

The commission said it has no comment on the pay complaint.

Kessler said that, win or lose, revenue for men’s sports should not part of the equation.

“The reason they are entitled to equal pay is that they are engaged in equal work,” Kessler said.

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