MORE ROOM TO GROW WOMEN’S FOOTBALL
England…Australia…Norway…New Zealand…Brazil. These are the nations who, over the last few years, have decided to be paying women footballers the same salaries being paid to the men footballers. Even Nepal joined this list last year…NEPAL! As good as this sounds, women football needs more nations to follow this trend. Its 2021! …and we’re still looking for equal pay for women in football.
Earlier this week, the Give Our Athletes Level Salaries (GOALS) bill was brought forward in the US Congress. This followed the announcement that US Soccer had reached an agreement with the US Women National Team (USWNT) on the claims over equal working conditions with their male counterparts. This allows the USWNT to appeal an earlier court ruling that dismissed their drive for equal pay. If the GOALS bill becomes a law, then the USA joins the aforementioned countries in treating the women footballers the same as the men footballers.
I’m not sure US Soccer needs much justification for why the women should be paid fairly. In 2018, the US Men National Team did not even qualify for the World Cup. A year later, the US Women National Team lifted their 4th World Cup. 4th! The USMNT might point to their Gold Cup achievements; having won the competition four times, but their female counterparts have won their equivalent (CONCACAF Women’s Championship) EIGHT times. There is NO reason why they should not have the same earning power at least.
But it’s not just the USA that needs to make this happen, it is the rest of the world. More has to be done for Women Football. When you take a look at the viewing stats from the 2019 Women World Cup, you will realize that there is a growing interest in the women’s game (more than 10 million people tuned in to watch that tournament). In fact, that victory created the platform for the USWNT to start the process of seeking equal pay. I believe what they started has caused some countries to really consider equal pay in football.
It’s not just about equal pay as well. Women should be allowed to have the same working conditions given to the men. Same standard of equipment and training, same level of accommodation when the teams travel for games, same level of coaching, same level of training, and even same level of commercial opportunities. Women footballers have managed to produce miracles without most of these conditions. Imagine if they were afforded something close to them.
The FIFA Women Football Strategy states that the football governing body intends to double the number of female footballers to over 60 million by 2026. To do this, it requires all its member countries (211) to have strategies in place to boost women participation in the sport. There has to be more football schools to raise women who can go on to be football players, administrators, coaches, and other relevant roles.
Investment is important. Countries like France, Sweden, Germany, England and Spain are doing so much for the women football leagues. Players get quality training facilities, coaching and even opportunities to become administrators themselves. Salaries are competitive and fair while the teams get top attention when it comes to sponsorships and media exposure.
In Nigeria, more STILL has to be done for the women’s game. Our Women National Team, just like the USWNT, is more successful than the Men National Team. While the men can boast of just 3 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) triumphs, the women have won their equivalent ELEVEN times! I am happy with the developments in the Nigerian Women Football League. The recent rebranding and restructuring bodes well for the future. If we can get more ladies to be interested in watching and playing the game here, Nigeria would be better for it. We already have the role models here for them (Mercy Akide, Onome Ebi, Perpetua Nkwocha, Precious Dede, Florence Omagbemi etc) so the foundations are there to be successful.
In a month where women are being celebrated all over the world, it is a good opportunity to face their place in several spheres of life; including the beautiful game. After giving up so much to give us so much, I believe football owes them what they have deserved for a long time: Equality.