KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A landmark equal pay deal brokered by the Australian women’s soccer team, the Matildas, has the potential to boost female participation in sports, equality advocates and sports groups said on Wednesday.
Australian soccer’s governing body announced it had reached a “unique” agreement with the players’ union that “closes the pay gap” between the men’s and women’s national teams.
Pay disparity between men’s and women’s professional footballers has been in the spotlight since the U.S. women’s team sued governing body U.S. Soccer in March alleging gender discrimination in earnings and working conditions.
In June, the Matildas launched a campaign calling for prize-money parity ahead of the women’s World Cup.
“Any move like this for equal pay - and for such a prominent team as the Matildas - is a real boost in the arm to show that times are changing and women’s sport is being seriously valued,” said Susanne Legena, CEO of Plan International Australia.
“It will encourage girls to potentially keep active during those teens years when they normally drop off.”
Figures from the Women’s Sports Foundation show that by age 14, girls drop out of sports at two times the rate of boys, with the lack of opportunities and access to equipment, social stigma, and safety and transportation cited as key reasons.
Under the new deal, women players will receive an increased share of prize money for FIFA World Cup qualification, up to 40% from 30%, rising to 50% if they progress to the knockout stage.
The new pay structure, which includes improved parental leave benefits, also gives the Matildas the same percentage share of revenues as the men’s team, the Socceroos.
The agreement comes after the women’s World Cup in France in June to July this year was hailed by soccer’s world governing body as the best yet, showcasing the tactical, technical and physical improvements in the women’s game.
FIFA also claimed a record billion television viewers.
Australia is among a list of countries that have registered interest to host the 2023 edition of the women’s World Cup with a decision expected to be made in May next year.
Chris Nikou, Football Federation Australia chairman, said the new pay agreement would give the next generation of Australian children “a chance to be an Olympian, and the lure of playing at a FIFA World Cup - regardless of your gender”.
“It means whether you are a male or female, the value football places on your jersey is no different,” he said in a statement.
Reporting by Michael Taylor @MickSTaylor; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org