Wage Discrimination in US Soccer (OK – Football for the ROW)

5 min read

I am a soccer fan. I played as a kid. I have been a Coach, Advanced Coach, Referee, and Coach Instructor for AYSO. I have my “D” license for coaching Club soccer. When the World Cup is playing, it is streaming to my computer. I catch the UC Irvine Anteaters near my home, and try to see Stanford play as well. I love going to Chivas games in Los Angeles, and when travel takes me to the UK I beg our EMEA office to find tickets to a match to attend. So, with all of that, I am also firm (if not zealous) proponent of pay for performance. So today, on National Equal Pay Day, there is no better time to continue the discussion around pay disparity between men and women. If someone on your sales team is bringing in the revenue, you commission them. If someone in marketing is responsible for higher lead flow, better brand recognition, or perfect events – you bonus them. If top engineers are filing patents to protect your intellectual property – you reward them. So what is going on with the US Women’s national team? 5 members of the women’s team filed a lawsuit claiming wage discrimination. The issue has been all over the news, including this summary, which popped up in my Facebook feed a few days ago.

So let’s talk performance:

  • The men are ranked #29, while the women have won 3 World Cup Championships and 4 Olympic Championships.
  • The women played more games last year (27 vs the men’s 20)
  • The women’s victory over Japan in the World Cup final was the most-watched soccer game of all time in the United States (26 million viewers).

Finally, let’s talk the money

The women generated $20 million MORE in revenue than the men according the US Soccer 2015 Financial Report. What do they get for that? So surely that shows up in their remuneration, right? Nope. Qualify for the World Cup? Men get $2.5 million to share across the team, while the women get nothing. Win the World Cup, and a player on the women’s team gets $75k. A man gets almost $400k. This is not paying for performance. Xactly has been following gender based pay in roles where performance is measured. Looking at men’s & women’s soccer, it is time to apply measurable, known metrics to determine the appropriate compensation for players on these teams.

Approach this like it was a business (which, let’s face it, professional sports IS):

  • Base salary for making the team. This represents the training, base value of the team member, etc.
  • A percentage of the revenue for each match played. Instead of a flat rate, a piece of the gate, TV rights, etc. Play more games? Make more money.
  • A flat bonus for victories (you don’t want too much compensation tied to just showing up after all).
  • A larger bonus for winning certain key championships such as the World Cup.

There is no reason that both teams could not be under the same compensation plan. If the men generate more revenue, then they deserve higher compensation. If the women are putting it in the net – give them the credit, and associated payments, they have earned.