What do the words ‘England’ ‘football’ and ‘World Cup’ conjure up in your mind?
Penalty shootouts, managers who don’t have a clue, unlucky exits, drab football and pretty much constant disappointment? Yeah, that’s pretty much it really.
Or it was before the England Women’s side, or the Lionesses as they’ve been nicknamed took to the field. Unlucky exits don’t quite cover it when it comes to their match against Japan, with one of the harshest own goals being scored by Laura Bassett.
That is pretty much where the comparisons to the men end however.
Raheem Sterling might be seeing and raising Ashley ‘I nearly crashed my car at being offered only £60k a week’ Cole at the minute, but in a world where males who play football are paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a week, the top earner in the women’s side is on £65k a year.
That’s it. Compare that to USA star, Alex Morgan, who earns £1.9 million a year, which is 30 times more than the likes of England and Manchester City skipper Steph Houghton. Even Morgan and Brazilian forward Marta, who has won the FIFA World Player of the Year award five times, only netted £202,000 a year, which when you compare it to the top male earners, is pocket change. Literally.
Most of Morgan’s income comes from sponsorship, with only £117,000 coming from the USA national side – clubs don’t pay women in the USA after the previous domestic league folded back in 2012 – so why don’t England’s female players get the same chances through endorsements, because the men certainly do. In case you were wondering, only around £4,000 of Houghton’s comes from sponsorship.
From Joe Heads and Shoulders Hart to David my face is on a Pepsi can Luiz, the guys rake in the cash from endorsement deals. The women do not, simply because their profiles are not high enough.
The sexes are miles apart in terms of the money they earn, the acclaim they get and the crowds they draw in. Just look at Stephanie Roche, the 2014 FIFA Puskas award runner up for goal of the year (won by hipster favourite James Rodriguez) at the Ballon d’Or awards.
Her goal was stunning, yet most of the tweets and media reports chose to focus on Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s expressions as she walked past them at the ceremony in a dress. It says it all.
While the US in particular have taken to women’s football, or soccer as they call it, people in England have resisted, and despite a growing number of females in the sport in terms of presenting, commentating and punditary, offering women who play the game praise has been hard to come by.
Before this World Cup campaign from our women.
To say they have advanced women’s football by a good few decades with their performances and passion is no understatement.
When England finally succumbed to Japan at 2am BST, anyone who took a look at their Twitter timeline could see just how the nation – both males and females – had taken the team to their hearts.
It was a school night, yet millions of people were up watching the game and cheering the players on. Tweeting support for the side and offering their commiserations, not to mention pride at the performance.
Not only was it worlds away from a post-mortem following one of men’s games, with England and Roy Hodgson offering Jose Mourinho new tips on how to kill off a game and suck the life from it, the interaction and general good feeling (despite the devastation, which speaks volumes itself given how it shows the amount people invested in the game, with many people crying actual tears, this time out of heart-break and not boredom as we come to expect from the men’s side) was something that took many by surprise.
There will of course still be those who say the women are nowhere near as good as the men, blah, blah, blah, and it would be foolish to think women’s football will now take off a la the male version of the sport, but everything needs a catalyst and a starting point to really get the masses involved, and this is undoubtedly it for women’s football, and hopefully the money will follow for the women in terms of the endorsements they receive and coverage on TV and in magazines.
So, yes, you probably will watch England at another major footballing tournament and think ‘I’ve seen better. I could probably do better. Passion? What passion?’ but it will be when you watch the men in France come 2016. Not when you watch our Lionesses, because man, can they roar.