More than money: Matildas equal pay deal the dawn of new era

In case you missed it, Australia’s female football representatives will earn the same amount as their male counterparts after the Matildas and Socceroos struck an equal pay deal.

The equal pay debate is a prominent sporting discussion each year, but dialogue creates little outcome, hence why news of this deal is a major cause for celebration.

The inevitable naysayers have made their feelings known, claiming it’s not deserved due to female football players having less audience pull, but this is ignorant.

But regardless of if onlookers believe professional female athletes should be paid the same as their male counterparts, a few things are clear.

The Matildas are a much more successful side on the pitch than the Socceroos and are Australia’s best shot at winning a World Cup, and they will only benefit from receiving more money. They also represent what could be the catalyst for a huge cultural shift in sport across the world.

With the new collective bargaining agreement ensuring the Socceroos and Matildas receive a 24 per cent share (rising by one per cent each year) of an agreed aggregate of national team-generated revenues, tier one Matildas receive a pay increase to the same level as the top Socceroos.

The female representatives now have the same access to training facilities, business class flights and specialised performance staff, and it’s apparent that the FFA is not only addressing gender inequality but is rewarding one of football’s standout national teams.

While the side fell short of expectations and were knocked out in the Round of 16 by Norway in this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, they have now reached the knockout stages in four consecutive editions.

Currently ranked eighth in the world, the Matildas also won the 2010 Asian Cup and the 2017 Tournament of Nations, defeating the United States, Brazil and Japan – all top 10 sides – on their way to the triumph.

Their phenom captain, Sam Kerr – who just recently signed for revered English club Chelsea FC – also deserves a mention as football’s biggest household name in Australia.

The Socceroos, ranked 42, did win an Asian Cup in 2015 but haven’t made the knockout stages of a FIFA World Cup since 2006, and are knocked out of the park by their counterpart’s performances.

It’s disappointing that the most competitive team the nation has to offer was paid significantly less than their male counterparts. The FFA has realised this, acknowledging their error and balancing the playing field.

The deal’s significant impact on the Matildas will also allow them longevity in the game and the opportunity for long-term success.

Before this deal was made, female footballers in Australia played purely for the joy and love of the sport, but now they’ll also receive full financial benefit and security.

In the 2017/18 season, 51 per cent of Australian W-League players quizzed about pay admitted that leaving the game early due to lack of income was a genuine possibility, and 85 per cent said better pay would keep them in the sport longer.

The Matildas deal is a step in the right direction and helps to overcome the position all players were in beforehand. Furthermore, with elite facilities and support staff now on offer, the Matildas may be primed for significantly more success.

Star Matildas midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight shares this belief.

“We want to be able to step out on that pitch with equal opportunity and with equal facilities that men have been exposed to…having these facilities is going to set [the Matildas] up for success.”

Boasting some outstanding players, a winning style of play and a strong run of results in recent years, it’s easy to argue that the Matildas already have the setup needed for success, but the addition of these facilities has the potential to take them to a level Australian football has never seen before.

Continued success brings larger commercial presence, a larger audience, and a spike in commercial profit. The opportunity for equal pay and privilege will literally boost every aspect of the sport in Australia.

Performance aside, the FFA’s equal pay deal addresses the longstanding issue of gender inequality in sport and could very well be a facilitator of international change.

There is still a long way to go. If the Matildas won the FIFA Women’s World Cup they would have received $4million (A$5.8m), less than what the Socceroos earned just for qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

This is in FIFA’s hands, but the international governing body would have heard loud and clear the statement the FFA are making.

The deal, in Elise Kellond-Knight’s words, “is enormous”.

“As a female footballer it’s what we’ve always dreamed of. We’ve always wanted to be treated as equal.”

The next step is for sporting bodies everywhere to address this accordingly. Speaking to Wide World of Sports, the Matildas’ Ellie Carpenter revealed her confidence in a massive transformation across sport.

“I think it’s a big milestone for not only football, but women’s sport as a whole.

“It will be a massive movement across the world now that the federations know we’re backing our players equally. I think the other countries and federations will take a look at themselves and see if they can do that as well.”

Most importantly, the deal has highlighted more than ever the need for female athletes throughout sport to be paid equally, thought of equally, and given as many opportunities to succeed as men.

Although the deal signals the start of a shift in world sport, other sporting bodies now carry the responsibility to make the right decisions and continue the revolution.

Image by Emily Savage 

 

sports editor