House Democrats are calling on FIFA to eliminate the disparities between men and women’s soccer in pay, publicity and investments.
Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) and 26 of their Democratic colleagues sent a letter to FIFA President Sepp Bladder on Monday asking the international soccer association to make good on its mission, to “develop football everywhere and for all.”
The letter asked FIFA to equalize pay between men and women players; review current policies and commercial arrangements to ensure they reflect a modern understanding of the sport’s popularity; increase global investment in women’s soccer; and provide equal facilities for male and female players.
The lawmakers said unequal pay is indefensible.
“The three-time world championship winning Team USA team received a $2 million prize, just one-fourth of the $8 million that a men’s team receives for losing in the first elimination round of the Men’s World Cup,” the letter said. “And the total payout for the Women’s World Cup this year is 40 times less, at $15 million, than the 2014 Men’ World Cup award of $576 million.”
And though their letter said corporate actors often cite a weak American and global marker for women’s sports, the 2015 Women’s World cup was the most-watched soccer game in American history, garnering 26.7 million viewers.
“There is ample evidence that FIFA has underinvested in women’s sports out of motives ranging from apathy to discrimination,” the lawmakers said.
In the letter they quoted remarks Bladder made in 2004, “you suggested that the way to improve women’s soccer was to ‘let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so.’”
Their response: “Women’s sports aren’t a sideshow and FIFA should do its utmost to ensure it doesn’t treat them like one.”