It was revealed recently that the England women’s and men’s football teams had received equal pay since January 2020. They join Brazil, Australia, Finland, New Zealand, and Norway as the only nations to do so. Though the women’s and men’s teams both achieved semi-finals football in their most recent World Cup campaigns, the Women’s World Cup had 414.1 million total viewers while the Men’s World Cup had over 3.5 billion.
Viewership is often seen as the key issue for equal pay in sports. Men’s sports generate untold greater revenue, viewership, and media attention. This is the reason given by people like Casey Stoney, head coach of Manchester United Women’s team for the pay gap being just. Many would say it’s unrealistic to view the two sides as even when the average attendance for the Man Utd men’s team in 2018/19 was 74,000 and the average attendance for the women’s team was 2,180.
Equal pay has been long controversial in professional sports. In 2007, it was major news when Venus Williams fought for equal pay and achieved it at Wimbledon. In 2019, US Women’s Football team sued US Soccer for $66 million over equal pay concerns, though they lost their case as they had bargained for their own contract. It is likely that the decision by Brazil, England, and the other countries will incite further fair pay agreements, with Ireland among the countries with major calls for equal pay.
Regardless of the arguments for or against this, it is a major achievement for women’s football in England and a milestone for a sport long mistreated. After World War I, the women’s game was banned due to jealousy over their crowd sizes being higher than the men’s and fear that their success would further spur the women’s liberation movement onwards. In this act, women’s football has finally been given the respect it deserves, and England fans can only hope for greater things to come from the Lionesses.