In the last few weeks I have seen a number of articles and statements about pay disparity between men and women soccer players. (Useful numbers here.) It seems rather obvious from the noise that a number of those women who are happy to recycle cherry-picked numbers about salaries could not name four starters on the US Team, have never bought a ticket to a soccer game and never watched a game on TV until very recently, if at all. The financial truth is that women do not support women’s sports nor do they make much of an effort persuade men to become interested.
Among other sports, I do watch soccer. I watch the Premier League broadcasts on weekends. I follow DC United in the MLS and I actually buy tickets to games. And I follow the US national teams. ( I have always been concerned about our women’s team being too confident of their athleticism so that they can often be vulnerable to counterattack by patient, savvy European teams; and I am appalled at the state of the US men’s team). I noticed that even in the elimination rounds of the Women’s World Cup there were many empty seats in the stands.
An educated lady of my acquaintance was part of a casual group conversation in which two men brought up the Washington Nationals and pretended to know the game as many men tend to do. She interrupted the bloviation to ask if anybody was going to watch the World Cup game against England. I said I planned to do so and asked if she was worried about the scoring punch of England’s forwards given the USA’s tendency to press forward do much. She then confessed that she had not yet watched a game. Typical. She loves the generic issue of equality but not the sport. And that is the real issue.
The disparity in income and market value between men and women’s soccer is a difference of magnitudes. The roster of Brazil’s men’s team (most of whom play in the top tier of European leagues) has a collective market value of over $1 billion–and that is not even the highest ranked team. Most of the names on that roster each have contract value higher than the sum of the US women’s team. [Note: US Men’s team has a net contract value of only $144 million and half of that is Christian Pulisic.]
When sports fans debate the fairness of individual player salaries they generally do so (a) with a knowledge of the sport and of (b) the player’s performance and (c) what other teams are doing, i.e., the market. Extraneous political considerations are not included. And that is how it should be.