Tag Archives: NWSL

A tale of two footballers

This is a tale of two footballers. Both among the best in the world. One is nominated for the FIFA Ballon D’Or award the other should be. Both are rumoured to be leaving their clubs next summer – one is a free agent the other has apparently fell out with his current club. One suspects most clubs would sign these players if they could.

There is one difference between them. One is a man – Cristiano Ronaldo who needs no introduction from me. One is a woman – Amandine Henry of Lyon and France. For those who don’t know she is a midfielder who was voted the third best player in this year’s Women’s World Cup but for some reason best known to the voters is not among the top three contenders for the Ballon D’Or. She is out of contract with Lyon after this season while there are rumours that he is fed up with Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez and might want to leave in the summer. Real fans were not happy when after a Champions League tie against Paris Saint Germain (PSG) he greeted the French club’s owner “like some lost friend” according to Keith Jackson in today’s Daily Record. So it is at least possible Amandine and Cristiano could be looking for new clubs this summer. And while it is a dead cert that Cristiano’s wage packet will be bigger than Amandine’s – it is reckoned Cristiano earns more in a week than Amandine earns in a year (gender equality football style!) it is interesting to see which clubs would be in contention to sign Cristiano and Amandine if they wanted to move. And the answer is surprising.

First Cristiano. While every club on this planet would want to sign him I reckon the only ones that could afford to are Barcelona, PSG, Manchester United, Manchester City and perhaps Bayern Munich. But as a Real player I cannot see him going to Barcelona ( though compatriot Luis Figo did move in the opposite direction back in 2000). Nor as an ex United hero can I see him in the blue of Chelsea or City. Since I don’t think Bayern can afford him that means if he does want to leave Real it can only be for United or PSG. But Real and United get on about as well as David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn as the farce of David de Gea’s non transfer showed. No wonder Keith Jackson is not alone in thinking that Cristiano will be in Paris next year(and NOT just for Euro 2016!)….

Now Amandine. Again like Cristiano there are few clubs she could go to if she decided to leave Lyon although this time it is because very few women’s clubs have any money at all. Again every club on this planet would want to sign her but I reckon the only ones that could afford to are Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg, PSG, and perhaps Chelsea or Manchester City (interesting to note the overlap with the big male clubs that would not have happened say ten years ago). But like Cristiano I’d be surprised if she joined her current club’s main rivals and the two UK clubs are handicapped by the salary cap in the Women’s Super League (WSL) – a pity as I’d love to see her play here. So at first glance it looks like Amandine will be in Germany next year if she leaves Lyon.

But in her case it is not that simple. For despite the difference in salary Amandine has an option Cristiano does not. There is no league outside europe which is rich or competitive enough to attract elite male players. But in the women’s game there is an other option. Namely the American Women’s National Soccer League (NWSL) the league where the mighty World Champion US players play in. Although the wages are low it won’t be a huge difference compared to europe and she would be playing with and against the best players in the world. In fact Amandine recently begun to follow the NWSL’s best supported club the Portland Thorns on Twitter which may (or may not) mean anything…

So Amandine despite the sexism and wage inequality in football actually has more future career options than Cristiano. An ironic twist to this tale of two footballers….

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Why America can’t lecture the world on equal pay in sport

You would think the Americans would be happy after their magnificent win in the recent Women’s World Cup but instead they have been moaning at FIFA again (almost an American hobby these days). This time they are moaning at the prize money that the team won. The US women were awarded $2 million for the World Cup victory. The internet quickly recalled that Germany’s men won $35 million for their World cup win in Brazil last year and that the US men’s team (who lost in the last 16) earned $8 million for their efforts.

Cue the uproar in the US with cries of “sexism” filling the air. Even US politicians got involved with representatives Jackie Spier and Linda Sanchez – and 33 others – tabling a motion in the House of Representatives calling  for equal pay for women and another politician – Carolyn Maloney – writing to FIFA asking them to end their pay policy which she called “discriminatory”. While at first glance this seems a good campaign the fact is it is full of xenophobia and hypocrisy.

For example the inequality is nothing new. in fact the winners of the Women’s World Cup won no prize money at all until 2007 – and far less in 2007 and 2011 as well. The difference of course is that the US did not win the last two World Cup before this year’s – Germany and Japan did – but who cares about unequal pay when it is foreigners who are the victims eh? The Americans also use the argument the Women’s World Cup Final won higher ratings than the men’s in the US than the men’s – conveniently ignoring the fact that in the rest of the world the men’s Final was far more popular. Americans have to learn that FIFA represents the whole world not just them.

Plus shouldn’t the US put its own house in order first? Gender inequality exists in the US domestic football Leagues. The minimum wage in the women’s pro League – the Women’s National Soccer League (NWSL) – is $6842 a year (the Federal poverty line is $11770).In contrast  the minimum salary for the male equivalent  – Major league Soccer (MLS) is $60000. Not much sign of equal pay there .

Of course the establishment sports in the US are far worse. Women only play grid iron football professionally in their underwear and they play softball not baseball – despite the efforts of a few pioneers like Justine Siegal. Basketball is the only one of the big three establishment sports in the US with a women’s pro League – the Women’s National Basketball  Association (WNBA) and it won’t be a shock to learn that the minimum salary in the WNBA is $37950 compared to $ 507336 in the male equivalent – the National Basketball Association (NBA). Shouldn’t the Americans practice what they preach?

Ironically female footballers and basketball players from the US can make more money in the rest of the world they dislike so much. Diana Taurasi – one of the WNBA’s best – earns $1.5 million a year playing basketball professionally in Russia in the WNBA off season. This compares with the maximum WNBA salary of $107000. In a hilarious twist her Russian club has paid her more than her WNBA salary  not to play in the WNBA at all in 2015. Where is the outcry of sexism here?

And in football too the same thing. In 2013 US star Megan Rapione spent a season in France’s Division 1 Feminine playing for Lyon – the club most of France’s magnificent women’s team play for. She earned $14000 a month – again far more than she could playing in the WNSL.(in 2013 the maximum salary in WNSL was said to be $30000 a year). Again it is funny how these sexist foreigners are able to pay women far more than the US does!

This is relevant because the US has to put its own house in order before lecturing the rest of the world. Tennis is the perfect example. US female tennis players from Billie Jean King to Venus Williams put pressure on Wimbledon and the French Open to pay women equally. But the Americans were able to do so from a position of moral strength since the US Open had introduced equal pay for women in 1973 – long before Wimbledon (2007) and the French Open (2006).Had the US Open not done so they would have been in a weaker position with regards to Wimbledon and the French Open.

And that is the moral for Americans lecturing the rest of the world about sexism in football. Get rid of it in your own backyard first. There is equal pay legislation in America. Why not insist – as with Title IX – that sport pays women equally? Women’s football is more popular in the US than France so it is nonsense that Rapione could earn more money in France than in the US. Women’s basketball is more popular in the US than Russia so it is nonsense that Taurasi earns more money in Russia than in the US. Until the US takes the lead in the fight for equal pay in sport by introducing it in their domestic Leagues they should not be surprised that when they campaign for equal pay for female footballers it will be a case of – to quote the title of an LP from the mighty UK indie group the Smiths – that “The World Won’t Listen”.