The Women’s World Cup starts today, and the players just found out they might not be paid what they were promised.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino is reneging on a commitment he made in June to distribute a portion of the Women’s World Cup prize money directly to the players. The announcement came on the eve of the tournament’s kick off and is considered a setback to closing the gender pay gap in the sport.
Under the initial payment model, every participating player would’ve been paid $30,000 each, with the payout increasing with the team’s performance. Players on the winning team would earn $270,000. The payment would’ve been significant for most players, as the global average salary for professional women’s soccer players is $14,000.
“Each individual player at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 can now fully rely on remuneration for their efforts as they progress through the tournament,” Infantino said last month.
But in a conference on Wednesday, FIFA shared it could no longer make this guarantee but that it was in conversation with national football federations on the issue.
Historically, member federations receive the prize money and are encouraged to distribute the funds to players—but they don’t always do so. Under FIFA’s original commitment, $49 million of this year’s record-breaking $110 million pot would have gone to the players directly, presumably bypassing the federations.
“We have issued these recommendations, but we have an association of associations,” Infantino said, per the AP. “So whatever payments we do, we will go through the associations and then the associations will, of course, make the relevant payments to their own players.”
Women players earn 25 cents on the dollar earned by men
The gender pay gap is pronounced in the professional soccer world.
Nearly a third of women aren’t paid by their federations, and roughly two-thirds have to take leave or unpaid leave from their second job in order to participate in tournaments, according to a 2023 report by the global union FIFPRO.
Women earn 25 cents on the dollar earned by men at the World Cup last year, according to a new CNN analysis. This figure is worse than the global average for women across all industries; they earn 77 cents on the dollar, per the United Nations.
Another FIFPRO report found that top performing women earn in a year what top performing men earn in a month.
Action for equal pay in the sport dates back to the 1990s when nine players on the U.S. women’s team went on strike prior to the Olympics. Now, stars like U.S. player Megan Rapinoe are at the forefront of the fight.
In 2019, the U.S. Women’s National Team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. Nearly three years later, the two parties reached an agreement that guaranteed the women’s and men’s national teams equal pay, including at World Cups.
The Women’s World Cup begins on Thursday, July 20 and runs until August 20. The games will be hosted in Australia and New Zealand, with 32 teams competing across 64 matches.