Women's Football 4 Months After the World Cup
After experiencing historic television audiences and record attendances during this summer's Women's World Cup, many women's players went back to their clubs with the same rights as before the tournament. Here is an update on women's football from around the world following the World Cup. Josh Schneider-Weiler spoke with The Daily Telegraph's Molly McElwee about the Spanish strike and other recent events in women's football.
Players are threatening to go on strike the weekend of November 16-17.
After 13 months- and 18 meetings- of talks with the Association of Women's Football Clubs (ACFF), 93% of players voted in favor of a strike. The players want to be recognized as full-time professionals and a minimum €16,000 (£13,800) annual contract for a 40-hour working week, €12,000 for a part-time 30-hour week, maternity leave and paid time off.
The ACFF have pushed back on those demands. However, The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has pledged to fill in the difference and stop the strike by contributing €1.15 million.
On Spanish radio, Levante's Marta Corredera said, "We are aware that it is now or never," she said. "We do not what to talk about equality with the men, we are only defending the rights we have as people and as workers."
Says McElwee, "They know that people are interested in them and they're a great product and they know that that means that there's going to be progress and people are going to be benefiting from it. They want to be some of the people benefiting from it of course, because they're the ones putting on the show for everyone."
A record 20 million watching Italy's quarterfinal run in the World Cup, which shows the heightened interest in Italy. However, conditions have not changed in the league. Players in the league are upset at the contractual conditions, similar to those of players in Spain.
According to Italian law, players are still considered amateurs which means they aren't permitted to earn more than €30,000 per year before taxes.
Said Italian national team coach Milena Bertolini, “it’s the minimum they deserve. We have an antiquated law. It’s shameful. If we want to be a modern, democratic and open society . we need to be treated with dignity.”
Added Juventus forward Barbara Bonansea, “the difference is there and we all know it.
We just want what we deserve. That’s what we’re fighting for. If there’s more coverage of our games and more sponsors come in, then we deserve more, too.”
The women's players have signed a historic deal with the Football Federation Australia (FFA). Under the deal, all revenue will be pooled and split evenly. The Matildas' (women's team players) guaranteed minimum pay will rise by 90%. The percentage of prize money will increase from 30%, to as much as 50%, and the Matildas will get equal conditions like business class travel. The prize money will not be the same as the men as the overall prize money for men's tournaments is larger but the percentage of the purse will be the same.
Says McElwee, "Hopefully it's sort of a trend that will continue to run into other federations. You've seen this week, Jordan Nobbs and Beth England on the England team, they spoke about how that deal is something that they want to see happen for England in the future."
"When you see other nations doing it, of course we want to carry on that progression with our nation," said Nobbs.
Adds McElwee, "I think when those big federations making moves like that, like the Australian Federation have, you can't just ignore that and players won't ignore it."
This weekend 77,000 spectators attended the England vs Germany friendly at Wembley Stadium, a record for women's football in England.
"I think the FA did an amazing job in promoting the match as well, in that they announced it very soon after England had finished their World Cup," says McElwee. "People were still interested in the team. People still wanted to know what had happened, how they'd fared and everything. When you capitalize on that moment that they had, it means that you can grow out the momentum further into the year and beyond hopefully."
"I think it's also indicative of the coverage, the increased coverage that the World Cup got this time around. I think the media in this country really took notice in a way that they hadn't before and that translated to people's interests."
"I think in the WSL there's been big change in that there's been these huge fixtures promoted, like at men's stadiums. You couldn't not hear about the fact that 30,000 people were at the Etihad to see the Manchester Derby. That was in your face."
"The WSL have also capitalized on gaps in the calendar where people who are interested in men's football can have that gap, if it's an international break, so their team isn't playing that weekend. 'Why don't I go watch the women's team, especially if it's at the stadium I always go to, and I'm paying way less money for it to go to the women's game.'"
"Next weekend, the 16th of November, and it's the women's football weekend. That's again, a men's international break weekend. I think the fact that there's so many big stadiums hosting women's games, it just makes a statement. 'We're here and we know that you want to know about us, and we know you want to watch us'. I think it's really exciting."
There has been added interest and investment in the league (NSWL). The league's average attendance rose nearly 22% to 7,337 per game in 2019. The NWSL is expanding into Louisville and Sacramento in the coming seasons and may even add more clubs in the future.
There has also been investment that will lead to better contracts. The league's maximum salary next season will be $50,000, up 8.2% from 2019, while the minimum salary will rise 20.9% to $20,000. Each club will also receive an extra 300,000 in allocation next season to invest in top international talent.
They've also attracted a major sponsor in Budweiser, which should drive investment and media attention. Budweiser is committed to the league and has encouraged investment from other potential sponsors and partners in their own advertisements for the league.
The United States is also central to the immediate future of women's football because of their fight with the US Soccer Federation (USSF) over pay.
"If the USWNT ends up going to court because they can't reach a settlement before that, and if they do win in their dispute with the federation, I think it's going to make waves across women's sport," says McElewee. "Even beyond that, if the USWNT get the result they want, yeah, all teams around the world are going to think, well, why not us. If they can do it, why can't we do it? Yeah, I think that's a really positive thing for women's sport in general."