The United States Women’s football team have been offered identical contracts to their male counterparts. The move is one of the biggest developments yet in the four-time World Cup winners’ battle for equal pay.
The US Soccer Federation have said that the offer was “with the goal of aligning the men’s and women’s senior national teams under a single collective bargaining agreement (CBA) structure.”
The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) and US Soccer have been embroiled in a fight over equal pay for the past four years and suffered a significant setback last year when a judge dismissed their claims of wage discrimination.
While today’s announcement appears to be a step forward in discussions, it remains to be seen whether the World Cup winners, who are already seeking more than $66 million (£49.4m) in damages under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, would agree to such terms.
If the women or men’s team do not agree to the new deals, USSF have said they will invite each union to sit in on negotiations for full transparency.
The USSF said: “US Soccer firmly believes that the best path forward for all involved, and for the future of the sport in the United States, is a single pay structure for both senior national teams.
“This proposal will ensure that USWNT and USMNT players remain among the highest-paid senior national team players in the world, while providing a revenue-sharing structure that would allow all parties to begin anew and share collectively in the opportunity that combined investment in the future of US Soccer will deliver over the course of a new CBA.”
The federation is also calling upon the players and both player associations to join them in “finding a way to equalise Fifa World Cup prize money between the USMNT and the USWNT.”
USSF has previously argued that it cannot pay the women World Cup bonuses matching those of the men because of vastly dissimilar bonus payments for men’s and women’s tournaments paid to federations by Fifa. “US Soccer will not agree to any collective bargaining agreement that does not take the important step of equalising Fifa World Cup prize money,” it added.
More than two years have passed since the women’s team put their names to a lawsuit against the USSF over equal pay and working conditions. The women are four-times world champions; the men failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
The women claim they have not been paid equitably under their collective bargaining agreement that runs through to December 2021, compared to what the men’s team receives under an agreement that expired in December 2018.
But in May last year, the USWNT’s claim for equal pay was thrown out by a federal judge, prompting Megan Rapinoe, one of the leading voices in the fight against US Soccer, to vow that the team would “never stop fighting for equality”.
Last December, the USSF and USWNT reached a settlement in their lawsuit, which brought an end to the dispute over unequal working conditions in areas including travel, hotel accommodation, staff support and the right to play on grass rather than artificial surfaces.
Analysis – proposals fall short of USWNT’s goals, but could build momentum
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While identical contracts appear to be a step in the right direction, the offer still falls short of what the USWNT have long been fighting for: to be paid exactly the same as the men’s national team.
Equal contracts would not cover remunerations that fall outside of a single pay structure for both national teams, such as bonuses for successes at major tournaments. The USSF argue that such bonuses are out of their hands.
Since 2017, the World Cup holders have felt they should be paid more than the men given their successes on the pitch which have boosted TV audience figures and attendances and the commercial revenue they generate. It is an an argument that has openly been supported by the national men’s side.
The contract offer could, however, be an important step in the USWNT’s lengthy quest for equal pay, which has dragged on since March 2019 and lost considerable ground when federal judge Gary Klausner ruled the pay case did not warrant a trial.
Former USA goalkeeper Hope Solo courted controversy earlier this year when she suggested the current national team “isn’t doing enough” to fight for equal pay.
Either way, the timing of the USSF’s announcement is significant, coming at a time when other nations are pressing ahead with pay parity. Earlier this month, the Football Association of Ireland announced equal match fees for its women’s team – who are ranked 32 places below the USWNT — becoming just the 10th nation out of 185 in the game to do so.
Last September the English Football Association confirmed that it pays its women’s players exactly the same as their male counterparts for representing England, both in terms of match fees and match bonuses and that the parity had been in place since January 2020.