CARDIFF, WALES – AUGUST 21: England forward Lianne Sanderson (l) and team mates celebrate with third goal goalscorer Laura Bassett (hidden) during the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup Group 6 Qualifier between Wales and England at Cardiff City Stadium on August 21, 2014 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
The world of sports has come a long way from the restrictive and discriminatory practices of the past when almost all disciplines of sports and games did not pay equal wages to women.
This has always been a male dominated world with the female having to accept lesser wages due to the gender discrimination which is age old but, while this practice has been discontinued with time with the development of a balanced system.
The fight for equality is not new and it is highly unfortunate that even in the 21st century we still see glimpses of the dark medieval past. History tells us that a man named Robert Owen who was a great thinker in the early 1830s pioneered the concept of equal pay in England.
In fact his socialist ideas and his fight which was acknowledged, even by Engel; he was a rich industrialist who moved from Wales to America to set up a utopian society on the banks of the Wabang River in Indiana.
Suffice it to say that the first recorded mention of the demand for equality in pay was raised by the Grand National Consolidated Trade union (GNCTU) in 1834. This was published by the union in their journal in The Pioneer.
Much water has flowed under the bridge with the feminist movements having to fight tooth and nail to get their due rights under the rights and constitutions of the world.
It is amazing that even a country like America has not been able to emerge from this medieval practice and continues to stick to it.
A Chicago court is deliberating on the claims made by five women soccer players against the practice of paying them lower wages than their male counterparts.
The history of the sporting federations is replete with accounts of their fight for equality that the women athletes and sportswomen have always suffered the humiliation of this discriminatory practice.
The judge in a Chicago court is having to come up with a judgment which may have far-reaching effect on women’s sports in general and it may have some serious consequences for many sports bodies for women since it is a well-known fact that the revenue generation by women’s sports federations was not on par with the earnings of the male version of the sport.
There is some authenticity in the argument put forth that in this particular case the women players have generated more income to the US soccer federation that their male counterparts.
But, we are still not sure whether these five women by launching litigation are taking a narrow view as far as the wider picture of women’s sports is concerned; it is a well known fact that sports bodies running women’s sports in most parts of the world are just running on a hand-to mouth basis or are not able to earn enough to break even.
A lot of the women’s sport is running on subsidies and if the judgment is in favor of the women athletes, it may have serious repercussions for certain sports federations that are in the red.
Hence it is just not the question of sentiments; the overall picture of women’s sports has to be seen in its totality. It may not exactly lead to a major turmoil but will have to be taken cognizance by all denominations of bodies conducting women’s sports.
Another aspect which may haunt the sports federations if the judgment was in the favor of the ladies is that the working costs or the total expenditures of the federations and their lavish spending styles will also have to come under the scanner.
Another vital aspect apart from the sentimental view is that the argument of the women’s soccer which should not be seen in isolation because if one were to see the financial results for 2015, they did earn more than their male colleagues but they have traditionally been earning much less than the males.
What if their earnings fell next year? Will they accept lower wages as a consequence of the floating rates of wages, if introduced?
Sunil Gulati, president of the USSF was objective in his approach stating simply that there are a number of factors which are instrumental in enabling sports federations to arrive at the terms of compensation for the sportspersons; he stated that they were willing to sit down with the players and discuss their demands but it is not practicable or feasible to arrive at an immediate solution.
So, not only is the world of soccer waiting for the high-stakes ruling by the Chicago judge, I would say that irrespective of the outcome of this litigation women’s sport may never be the same again.
Also, whether the five soccer players are doing their sisters the world over a disservice or yeoman service is a question which time alone will answer.
Author: Umrao Singh