On Sunday 5th July 2015, a record number of viewers in America turned on the TV to watch a football match. By 8.30pm, a reported 22 million people tuned in across the States to watch their home team play Japan in what was an impressive final, with the final result seeing the U.S beat Japan 5-2.
So, women getting the highest ever ratings in the U.S for a football game out of both male and female tournaments seems like we’re heading towards the direction of women’s football being considered as interesting and worthy as men’s, right? Well, yes and no. Such a strong amount of interest being shown is a brilliant indicator for the amount of respect women’s football and sport in general has gained. However, it is soon tarnished and overshadowed by some rather startling events. The first being that Sunday night’s winning team received just a quarter of the amount of dollars that the U.S men’s team received in the World Cup.You heard me right, Bey. FIFA awarded the U.S Women’s Football team with $2 million for their World Cup victory. That’s a boat-load of money, I hear you say. Enough money, in fact, to buy 160, 263 jars of Nutella (not just the normal-sized ones either but those big ones you want to drown in whenever you see them at a crêpe stall). Enough money, even, to buy 801 pug puppies (imagine) or 106,842 months of Netflix. So, yes $2 million is definitely a nice sum of money to receive. BUT, something is definitely up when a winning female football team only gets a quarter of the sum of money a male football team gets for getting booted out (sorry ’bout that pun) in the first round. Whilst the U.S. women came away with the title of World champion on Sunday night, their male collective counterpart made a World Cup exit in the initial rounds of the tournament. And yet, the male team received $8 million. So, $8 million to the men for coming 16th, and $2 million to the women for winning and becoming world champions? Huh. It doesn’t matter how many times you say it, it still doesn’t make sense. Believe me, I’ve repeated it in disbelief all day. Just the other day I was reading comments on an article reporting a cafe’s decision to only charge women 77% of the bill to highlight the gender pay gap and saw endless comments on how the gender pay gap was just a myth, some creation of militant feminist propaganda. Well, in case you needed any hard proof that in some industries at least, women still have a long way to go before they earn the same as men, here it is in the form of that credible organisation we all know and love, FIFA. Yes, men’s football brings in more revenue for FIFA currently but there’s a blindingly obvious reason as to why. FIFA invests much more money into men’s football – the Cayman Islands (home to just 58,435 people and a team who have never actually made it to the World Cup) are being given over $2 million by FIFA to fund efforts in their men’s team.
As if that wasn’t enough to make it clear that women still have a long way to go before they achieve the status of credibility they deserve in the world of football, the England Women’s team were welcomed home by this message from their FA.
HOLD ON. England’s Women’s Football team made it to the semi-finals of the World Cup. England’s Men’s squad haven’t made it that far in the entire time I’ve been alive (I join the twenties club on Friday) – and would you ever see them described as ‘going back to being fathers, partners and sons’ whenever they fly home to a disappointed and entirely unsurprised crowd at Heathrow?That’s right, Bey. When our male footballers are celebrated, they are celebrated as being just that; footballers, athletes. But this tweet from the FA creates the image that the women’s team have had their fun for a couple of weeks in Canada and now they can get back to their ACTUAL jobs; getting married and making dem babies. The female squad isn’t going to hang up their boots and disappear into societal gender roles resembling the 1950s just because the TV coverage they’ve had in the World Cup is going to suddenly diminish again.
Whilst viewer stats and the general public has shown a definite increase in interest towards female football, we clearly have a long way to go before the organisations making the decisions in the industry make a serious effort to give women’s football the credibility, funding and status it deserves.