Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Support us or get left behind?

This is the title of a recent piece by Sporting News, Wambach to sponsors: Support us or get left behind. This article, while interesting, does not tell the whole story regarding the disparity between women and men soccer players in the US.

Let me start by being very clear, a disparity exists, and it's a big one.

Let me equally clear, this is not because US Soccer or FIFA does not like the women's game. They play an attractive brand of football as do the men. This disparity is caused by a fairly simple reality.

The modern women's game does not make the type of money to allow such pay.

I admire Wambach frankly. She is a tremendous footballer and represents her country with respect and pride and as I have witnessed personally, she is particularly great with young fans. She earns every penny of her salary (reported between $190K - $300K) and fees for speaking engagements ($30K - $60K for a 2 hour appearance) and is a vocal leader for the women's game today. 

It is just simply not enough.

By the numbers the German National Team won $35M for their 2014 victory as compared to $2M for the US for their 2015 win. About a 17.5% discrepancy.

Looking at the revenue for the 2014 World Cup, it took in an estimated $4.8B (with a B). By comparison the 2011 World Cup (the '15 numbers are not ready yet) took in an estimated $75M (with an M ... and I am rounding up). This is a 64% discrepancy.

Some may say that is not a fair comparison as the revenue for the 2010 World Cup is smaller ... It is, but at $3.7B (again with a B).

So to get apples to apples, lets assume the same growth in the WWC, making an estimated 2015 number about 25% higher. This puts us with some serious rounding at about $100M (with a M) or the Men's WC earning about 50x that of the WWC.

50x folks ... Just for Sepp, here is a 20 CHF note at 50x:

Check out this article for these and other numbers, such as the fact as a percentage the women make more than men do in recent World Cup play.

Now I don't go so far as to say this is because "... men invented sports ..." (even tongue in cheek as I hope this author did), nor do I think the US Women's team is not treated like humans as one "social justice activist" did embedded in this article. Give me a break. (Abby didn't help her case either by saying she had to fly commercial sometimes #firstworldproblems and Alex Morgan from US Soccer alone makes ~$250K (source) never mind her endorsement deals).

If the WWC made the money the WC did, you can bet sponsors would be clawing their way to support these teams. It is sadly that simple. It is not about gender, it is not about race, it is not about nationality.

It is about money, and women's football does not make enough of it to be truly relevant to big business.

So now what, that's it? Go home?

Not by a long shot.

In 1999 names like Hamm, Chastain, and Foudy to name a few, pioneered sport when they took the world by storm with what they did. A new professional league was born out of their success and while the WUSA folded after just (3) seasons (and losses of ~$100M) the seeds were sewn.

(Nota Bene the decade long gap with no women's professional league or WWC win)

Today we have the NWSL and a new crop of heroines to continue to fight for the sport we all love. Will the women's game "make it big" someday? Yeah, I think so and agree with Abby that sponsors should get on board before they do.

It's just not yet.

Take a look how long it took for the men's game to get where it is today. MLS is in year 20(!) and there are an awful lot of players with low salaries. Recall that years 1 - 10 most players were making on the order of $11K, many had part time jobs, and flew coach, just like the referees. I know because I had many a flight with an MLS team ... another story later but before the match is ok ... after is horrible.

Compare this to the NWSL which is in year 3. It ain't easy, there is no doubt, but it takes time to build, and requires effort and patience.

Not the message folks want to hear I know ... but is I am afraid, the sad economic fact.

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