Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sports Law Guest Series - FIFA’s Treatment of Women #2

Sexism Issue
For years FIFA has been fostering a culture of sexism and discrimination against women. In regards to employment within the organization only three executive members are women and women make-up less than one percent of FIFA’s voting body. On the reform committee within FIFA only one of thirteen members is a woman (Bendery, 2015). This inequality has fed off of sexist comments from FIFA executives, like that of former president Sepp Blatter when he made this sexist remark to the FIFA congress in 2013 “Any ladies in this room? Say something, ladies! You are always speaking at home. Now you can speak here” (Dodd, 2015). In 2004 Blatter suggested that female soccer players wear tighter shorts in an attempt to draw more attention to their aesthetics and increase viewership. Remarks like these alone are bad enough to foster a culture inequality, and to make matter worse a CNN report found evidence that FIFA intentionally refused to nominate women to important positions with voting power in the organization (Bendery, 2015). Women are very clearly not given equal representation within FIFA preventing female athletes from having a voice within the congress. FIFA needs to develop a more inclusive hiring and nomination system, while also punishing those who perpetuate this outdated idea that women are incapable of holding position of authority.

Pay Issue
Pay inequity within FIFA is currently one of the hot button issues within the sports world. The number one paid men’s soccer player, Christiano Ronaldo, makes $49 million a year or ten times that of the number one paid women’s soccer player, Marta Vieiera, at $400,000 a year (Mughal, 2014). Furthermore, the US Men’s National team that lost in the second round of the 2014 World Cup made $35 million while the first place US Women’s National team only made a total of $2 million. Many fans of soccer would defend this inequity as the men’s team brings in more revenue and viewership then the women’s team; however, the level of inequity is astronomically high especially in comparison to the much lower level of advertising done for women soccer. Not to mention the US Women’s team victory over Japan in the finals of the 2015 World Cup set a record for the most viewership of any soccer match in this country at 25.4 million viewers (Zill, 2015). Even Nike didn’t start producing jerseys of popular female players in men’s sizes until 2015, making it hard for the team to sell to that audience. On March 30, 2016 five players from the US Women’s National team filed a lawsuit claiming wage discrimination by US Soccer. This complaint points out that women are paid four times less than the players on the US men’s team, despite generating $20 million more in revenue. Both teams must play a minimum of twenty friendly games per year but women only receive $1,350 for winning and men receive $5,000 no matter the outcome (Das, 2016). Despite this litigation being focused towards US Soccer, FIFA still needs to be held responsible as US Soccer is a federation that works under FIFA and the friendly matches through FIFA directly impact payment of the players.

Bird understands why there is a pay gap due to differences in popularity and women’s leagues being relatively new; however, he agrees that the gap is much too big and helps to hinder the growth of the sport. From his experience he has seen too many female soccer players forced to retire early in order to find jobs with their degrees as they are simply not paid enough, this in turn hurts the popularity of the game as less girls will strive to play professionally if they can’t make a living from it.

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