The Canadian women’s soccer team has been demanding for over a year that its soccer federation accept equal pay and equal working conditions for the men’s and women’s national teams. Players from England is frustrated that their country’s federation will not offer performance-related bonuses. And the Nigerian team discussed boycottin his opening match over money the players owe.
The fight for equal pay and equal treatment has raged in women’s soccer in recent years, with the players from the US Women’s National Team at the forefront of that fight. Ahead of this year’s World Cup, football managers have taken steps to address players’ concerns over compensation. But for many players, it is still not enough.
FIFA – soccer’s global governing body and organizer of the World Cup – increased the tournament’s prize money to $110 million, up from just $30 million at the last Women’s World Cup. A large part of that increase comes from larger sponsorships and new broadcasting rights for the women’s tournament. Even so, the total prize money still lags far behind prize money at the latest men’s WC in Qatar: $440 million, or four times as much.
Still, female players from around the world worked to secure their share of the payout. For the first time in World Cup history, FIFA will allocate money to players and federations separatelya move made to ensure players will see a cut in total prize money.
“Any player that makes at least $30,000 is huge, because usually that money goes to federations and the players don’t see any or a lot of it,” Alex Morgan, a co-captain of the U.S. team, said at a press conference in June.
However, Morgan and her teammates stand out from most players around the world. They will not rely on FIFA to determine their share of the World Cup prize money and will instead follow the terms of their contract with the US Soccer Federation. In it, the Americans have already secured tournament prize money that is significantly higher than the minimum requirements set by FIFA.
The American players’ share of the tournament winnings — about $300,000 for each player before they even step on the court and get off — comes through a new labor agreement signed last year. It is unprecedented in soccer history that the players on the US women’s and men’s national teams pool and share the prize money earned at their respective World Cups equally.
How the prize money is shared by most countries
Sarah Gregorius had just finished playing at the 2019 Women’s World Cup with New Zealand when she arrived in the Netherlands to take on a new job: the director of global policy for women’s football at FIF Prothe International Players Union.
“One of the first things that hit my plate was compensation because there had been so much talk at the last World Cup about equal pay and equal prize money,” Gregorius said. “I knew we had four years to get ready.”
The WC prize money has traditionally been paid out exclusively to the confederations, or “member associations” as FIFA calls them — organizations like the US Soccer Federation and the England Football Association that govern soccer in each country. The confederations in turn distributed prize money to players. For those with employment contracts, the amounts awarded were based on the terms of their collective agreements.
But about two-thirds of the women’s national teams that will participate at this World Cup, according to FIFPro, do not have any such collectively negotiated contract that would have allowed federations to pay out the money as they saw fit. The problem Gregorius and others saw with this payment model is that even as FIFA issued ever-larger amounts of prize money, there was no guarantee that players would receive a larger share, or worse, any pay at all.
In October, FIFPro sent a letter to FIFA on behalf of 150 players from 25 national teams with several demands, one of which was a guaranteed minimum payment for the players. On June 8, FIFA announced that it had agreed to distribute prize money separately between federations and players and that players would receive at least 30 percent of the total prize.
However, there are a few confederations, including American football, that will operate outside FIFA agreement. Australia will follow both conditions own agreement and the FIFA model, which awards players the percentage of FIFA prize money that is higher. Japan has a salary model where the percentage of the prize money payout that goes to men’s and women’s players is equal.
And as of Thursday, Canada Soccer and its players seemed to be close to reach their own agreement. “The offer that has been made to our players equalizes compensation and the standard of care for players across both programs,” Jason deVos, Canada’s interim general secretary, said in a statement.
In addition to the salary sharing with players, the global players’ union FIFPro also tried to standardize the rules and conditions for men’s and women’s World Cup players – such as travel conditions, facilities and venues – which FIFA accepted.
There was also a verbal commitment from Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, to equalize prize money for men and women ahead of the next World Cup cycle in 2026 and 2027.
However, skepticism remains, especially among players who have historically lacked federation support. The prize money earmarked for the players will still be sent to the federations, who will then be responsible for distributing it to the players. Some players expressed concern over FIFA’s oversight of this process and the lack of a timeline for receiving the money.
“Ultimately, we don’t know how we’re going to get paid or if it’s even going to be this year. There are ways this could really be manipulated,” said Cheyna Matthews, a forward for Jamaica. “It’s nice to see the guaranteed player payments, but you’re also holding your breath a little bit.”
FIFA confirmed that the funding will be subject to a review, but a spokesman could not give a precise timeline for when the players would be paid.
The US Women’s National Team will not trust FIFA
Every single player in the US camp in October signed the FIFPro letter, even though the terms of the FIFA agreement would have little to do with their own compensation. That’s because the American players and US Soccer will follow the terms of their own landmark labor agreement.
After a long and sometimes contentious battle with US Soccer, the women – along with the men – signed new contracts in September that formalized sharing the World Cup prize money equally.
US Soccer takes 10 percent from each team, which consists of 23 players; the rest is then shared between the 46 men’s and women’s national team players who made the WC list. And while some confederations have worked to offset compensation for other things like match fees and travel, no other confederations share their World Cup prize money in this way.
“In our contract, we have equal prize money between men and women, which is a shared pool. And we are the only federation in the world to do that,” said Morgan. “We are very happy that we fought for it and were able to achieve it. Now it is up to FIFA and other confederations to do their part.”
Some countries, including the United States and Denmark, offer additional match bonuses at the World Cup – $10,000 for American players who appear in a game, while Denmark pays players amounts range from $1,500 to $15,000, depending on the round and whether the team wins or loses.
“No one goes as far as the United States in terms of what they give to the players,” Gregorius said, adding that many unions and players’ associations are still in the process of negotiating better pay-sharing terms for players. FIFA announced only new payment model in June.
She added that the hope was that the FIFA agreement “is treated as a floor rather than a ceiling.”
The New York Times contacted all confederations participating in this World Cup to ask about player compensation and how the prize money would be divided. A few told The Times they exceeded the minimum requirements of the FIFA agreement, but would not disclose specific numbers or go into detail.
“Due to confidentiality reasons, it is not possible to delve into financial information or how this payment scheme will work in detail,” Gustavo Araya, the general secretary of the Costa Rican soccer federation, said in an email. He added that Costa Rica’s soccer federation “is more than meeting FIFA’s requirements in this area.”
The other perhaps surprising winner at this year’s Women’s World Cup could be the players on the US men’s team.
If the U.S. women win the title, each U.S. men’s player will receive an additional $205,000. This means that a player for the US men’s team would receive more prize money from the Women’s World Cup than a female player from any other country.