Craig Salmon’s soapbox: History means women will always play second fiddle when it comes to pay in football

Craig Salmon looks at the gender pay gap in football and believes women players should receive more financial rewards

Lyon's Ada Hegerberg
Lyon's Ada Hegerberg

Any readers recognise the two footballers attached to this article?

One is obviously Lionel Messi – considered to be the greatest footballer in the world.

The other is Ada Hegerberg – voted the world’s best female footballer after she claimed the inaugural women’s Ballon D’Or at the end of last year.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi

The reason I ask is the issue of pay between the genders in football has reared its head recently and the question has been asked why women are paid far less than their male counterparts.

There is no doubt, due to the huge swathes of money within the men’s game, that Messi earns far more dough than Hegerberg, who plays for French club Lyon.

Indeed, the worst player in English football’s Premier League will earn more than Hegerberg – this despite the Norwegian ace being officially recognised as currently the best woman footballer on the planet.

Is that fair? I would say most definitely not!

But in the free, capitalist democratic world that we live in – market forces are king.

Men’s football is a greater financial commodity worldwide – more people want to watch it both in person and on television. Youngsters grow up dreaming of being Messi and having his name imprinted on the back of their replica shirt.

How many pieces of merchandise bearing the name of Hegerberg are sold worldwide?

I cannot purport to know a figure, but I would imagine not many, certainly in comparison to Messi or any other top male player.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is clubs in the men’s game create more revenue than clubs within the female game so can pay their employees accordingly.

While the gender pay gap is not a case of sexism at play, the men’s game I do believe should hold more of a debt towards the women.

History dictates that women’s football will never be able to compete with the men’s game in the popularity stakes, simply because it has enjoyed more years to grow and time to evolve.

Let’s not forget women were barred from playing on any FA-affiliated stadium or ground in this country for 50 years from 1921 to 1971.

And the reason why they were banned? Because football was considered to be ‘quite unsuitable for females’! Of course the rise of the famous Preston-based women’s team Dick, Kerr Ladies also influenced the FA’s thinking – did the team’s popularity threaten the men’s game? The ban was certainly a major setback for women’s football – and its popularity – something which is still felt in modern times.

It is the reason why a talented male youngster can expect to earn far more than their female counterpart should they go to make it to the top of their respective games.

When you see some of the ludicrous sums of money being handed out to some of football top male stars per week, isn’t it about time a greater slice of football’s financial pie found its way into the pockets of the best women players?