Women’s football is on the growth path – on popularity and commercial charts. There is record television audience registered for the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup in France and tickets sales have already breached the one million mark. The 24-team event has at least 14 of the 52 matches fully sold out. There is no inventory available for at least one quarter-final, both the semi-finals and the final.
In broadcast ratings, the world governing body for football and the Women’s World Cup 2019 organiser FIFA is in line to breach 100 million television audience mark. A total 9.83 million fans had tuned into French free-to-air broadcaster TF1 to watch hosts drubbing South Korea 4-0. For sheer comparison, TF1 had secured 12.6 million viewers for France’s opening game against Australia at last FIFA Men’s World Cup in Russia 2018.
The examples cited above establish that the women’s sport is bridging the void with the men’s football that remains among the most followed and commercial most successful sports in the world.
The sports is drawing corporate support with the brands like Adidas, Coca-Cola, Wanda, Hyundai, Qatar Airways and Visa on board as the Women’s World Cup sponsors.
But the question that arises here is, how fair is FIFA’s monetary policy for women footballers?
The success and growth of the women’s game is still not reflecting in the pay purse, which remains far behind the commercial packages of men’s football.
The 24-team FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 has a total prize purse of $ 30 million. The winners’ get a cheque of $ 4 million. Even as the value of the gross price purse and the winners’ cheque stands doubled from the 2015 edition, it comes nowhere near the values of the FIFA Men’s World Cup in Russia last year.
The FIFA World Cup 2019 champions France alone had pocketed more than the total prize money at stake for the ongoing Women’s World Cup 2019. France had returned richer by $ 38 million for winning the World Cup in Russia. The total prize purse for the 32 teams aggregated $400 million.
US Women national football national team is one appreciable exception. A $718,750 donation by LUNA Bar has ensured that each member of the US women’s national team receives the same roster bonus ($31,250 per player) awarded to their male counterparts for earning a spot on the World Cup roster.
Tennis Grand Slams have bridged that disparity. All the four Grand Slams – Australian Open, French Open, the Wimbledon and US Open – offer the same prize purse to the champions in the women’s and men’s competition.
The disparity in prize money between the men’s and women’s event has drawn widespread criticism. However, this is not just confined to women’s football. The void is even bigger in cricket. The richest national body, the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s annual player retainer contracts are another glaring example. The BCCI has given annual contract to twenty women cricketers. However, the aggregate sum of the all the 20 girls’ annual contracts is lesser than the then ₹ 7 crore annual contract of Team India captain Virat Kohli. The twenty girls contracted in ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ categories @ ₹ 50 lakh, ₹ 30 lakh and ₹ 20 lakh respectively would collectively get ₹ 5.70 crore only.
Here is another example of disparity in men’s and women’s cricket. The ICC World Cup 2019 in England and Wales has a total prize purse of 10,000,000. $ 4 million the winner on July 14 will pocket is 200% more than the total prize purse of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup two years ago, when the champions cheque was only worth $6,60,000.