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The Gender Pay-Gap Debate and the Impact of Playfinder

The Issue

Each year American business giant Forbes release a ‘rich-list’. The list spans across all manners of professions, including a general rich-list, a list for the wealthiest celebrities etc. However, when viewing the top-100 highest paid athletes in the world, the issue surrounding the gender pay-gap becomes more prominent then ever. 99 men formed the bulk of the list, with just a solitary female in Serena Williams, who was down in 63rd place. Last year, when Williams took a year-long break from tennis following the birth of her baby girl, there were no women at all in the top-100. In 2017 again, the American tennis star was the only female to appear on the list. How can this be the case? Is the disparity in pay being marginalised? Are there any firm movements towards bridging the gap? Playfinder will delve into some of the current issues surrounding the fight for equal pay.

Following the US Women’s World Cup win, there has been increased media attention regarding the issue of equal pay. US superstars Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan have done excellent work in vocalising the issue in the press. Their national team are at the pinnacle of the sport, World Champions, yet the disparity in pay between their male counterparts is alarming at best. The USA men’s side did not even qualify for last year’s World Cup in Russia, yet earn a far more comfortable living.

In the States, there is a salary cap on female footballers which restricts them to a maximum of $46,200-per-year (£36,000). Comparably, Christian Pulisic, who plays for the USA men’s national team, is set to earn over £100,000-per-week at new club Chelsea. Of course, an argument that crops up time and time again regards the money generated by women’s and men’s sides. Using the World Cup as an example, The Washington Post stated last year’s men’s tournament held in Russia generated a staggering $6b in revenue. In contrast, the Women’s World Cup was estimated to generate $131m. So how can this gap be bridged? We’ll look into the issue later on.

This concern does not only surround American ‘soccer’ players, in fact the pay-gap is even further widespread in English football. However, there seems to be real momentum, not only in women’s football, but sport as a whole. The Netball World Cup held in Liverpool, has also been a resounding success. England’s football World Cup semi-final against the USA was the most watched programme this year, with nearly 12 million people tuning in to watch. So the public interest is there, but the impact needs to be felt before ‘World Cup fever’ runs-off, another two years go by and we’re having the same debate flagged up following the next major tournament. Viewing figures for the semi-final were so impressive, that they topped both the men’s cricket World Cup final and Wimbledon final between two of the greatest players to ever play the game, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

In that Wimbledon final, Djokovic ultimately won a titanic five-set battle and took home a whopping £2.25m. The same amount as Simona Halep claimed just 24 hours earlier after defeating Serena Williams in the Ladies Final. Wimbledon, along with the other three Grand Slam’s, form a rare example in which major sporting events do present equality. Therefore, it is no surprise that seven out of the top 10 highest earning female athletes are tennis players. But are other sports following suit?

A BBC Sport study conducted in 2017 determined that 83% of sports do indeed offer equal pay to men and women. On the face of it that sounds great, however, it can be slightly misconstrued as many of the more ‘high-profile’ sports in the UK which generate huge amounts of money such as football, cricket, rugby and golf still have giant strides to make before there is parity in pay. Credit should be handed to many sports that don’t appear to hold one gender in higher esteem than another, but there is still a long way, and much more work to do until this debate can be quashed.

What can be done?

Barriers need to be broken down. More women need to be encouraged to play sport which may be considered as ‘male turf’. More women playing such games will go some way to raising public interest and generate more revenue in the process, but it isn’t going to be a quick fix. Football is the perfect example, a recent study conducted by Playfinder discovered that around 40% of women aged between 16-34 were keen to play football, but were ‘wary of participating in a sport viewed as male-dominated’. It’s sad to see that in 2019 these social barriers are still prominent, but Playfinder is making a pledge to break them down. By 2023, we aim to have 50% of our users either female or participating in mixed sports. By offering encouragement to play sport, and easy access to facilities, this is a target that is very achievable.

Increased women participation in sport can only go so far to bridging the gender pay-gap, more needs to be done. There is a need for more initiatives to raise public interest in women’s sport, with the media having a huge role to play. It is fantastic to see that both Manchester City and Chelsea Ladies will play their opening home game of the Women’s Super League at the Etihad and Stamford Bridge respectively. Furthermore, for Chelsea’s London derby against Tottenham, fans can claim up to four free tickets for the event. The game, due to be played September 8th, has already sold out as a result, so there are encouraging signs of progress.

Going back to the media, it is vitally important women’s sport is in the public eye whether that be online, in the papers or on television, preferably on free-to-air channels. The Netball World Cup, being broadcast on the BBC, has already proved to be a success with Playfinder reporting a 39.47% week-on-week increase in participation since the start of the tournament. This momentum really needs to be grabbed. We will play our part, but if every sports club, media outlet, organiser or anyone with a vested interest in sport pull together, the gender pay-gap debate can – with much hard work, dedication and time – be dissolved once and for all.

Looking to play sport for the first time? Or simply want to rediscover your love for a game? Check out the range of sports facilities Playfinder offer here.

Image credit: Feature Image - "Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe" by Jamie Smed