Every four years we are subjected to Democrats and activists whining about how the U.S. women’s soccer team isn’t paid as much as the men’s team, even though the women’s team wins their World Cup almost every year while the men’s team has never won it.
Based on this limited and selective information, one might wonder why the men’s team is paid so much more. But once you learn all the other factors that go into the athlete’s pay, this “inequality” falls apart just like all the other gender “wage” gap claims.
I first wrote about the issue in 2015 — the last time the Women’s World Cup took place. The main reason women soccer players aren’t paid as much as men is due to the fact that there is simply less interest from viewers. The lower interest results in less money brought in from advertisers and revenue to the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
When women’s soccer came to Fox Sports, it averaged about 63,000 viewers, while the men’s team regularly brings in 240,000 viewers per game at ESPN. This changes when the women’s team is in the World Cup. Views at that time rival that of the men’s team — but just for that short period. Chris Chase wrote at USA Today in 2015 that this is more akin to national pride than any love of women’s soccer. For comparison, he provided the viewership of the Olympics, which also occur every four years.
“Does that mean swimming, track, figure skating, hockey and bobsled were growing in the United States? Of course not. It means that we, as a country, like to wrap ourselves in the flag while watching sporting events. It has been this way and it will continue to be this way,” Chase wrote.
The lower viewership leads to lower revenue. The Washington Post reported in 2015 (while trying to blame sexism) that women’s soccer only brought in $17 million in ad sponsorship for Fox Sports, while the men’s final in 2014 brought ESPN $529 million in ad revenue. Further, the men’s World Cup generated $4.5 billion in direct revenue to FIFA.
And if we really want to talk about equality, the women’s team gets a higher percentage of revenue than the men’s team, yet they neglect to include this fact when complaining about how little they got in bonuses. CBS reported four years ago that the men’s team received 9% of the revenue generated by the 2010 World Cup — which amounted to $348 million. The women’s team received 13% of the 2015 World Cup revenue, but because the women’s team brought in less revenue, they only received $10 million.
Women’s soccer earns less money, therefore they receive less money. This isn’t a difficult concept to grasp.
I laid these basic facts out on PBS’s “To The Contrary” in 2016. Even Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) agreed that this was not as cut-and-dry a case as many in her party and the media made it seem.
“What we are hearing makes it look like a slam dunk. When you get into the particulars: Are the men and women really bringing in equal amounts of revenue? It’s going to be more difficult to show that,” she said.