Fairer wages for women to dominate CBA talks

The Matildas train during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. (Getty) Source: AFP

Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) will enter a collective bargaining agreement negotiation meeting on Thursday determined to achieve an "immediate correction" to the rate of pay for the Matildas and a guarantee of "meaningful growth" to their earnings in the period ahead.

Earnings for top women players world-wide are generally low, particularly when compared to the men, and the Matildas certainly aren't pushing up the average among the leading countries.

But, after making financial sacrifices to devote themselves to a six-month preparation for the World Cup, the Matildas are doing the country proud in Canada, having beaten Brazil in the round of 16 to qualify for the quarter-finals.

It was the first win beyond the group stage at a World Cup for either the men's or women's national team.

PFA chief executive Adam Vivian said improved pay for the Matildas had been one of the aims throughout the CBA negotiation process and that it had come into sharper focus as a result of the team's achievements so far at the World Cup.

"I think there needs to be an immediate correction in that space, from my perspective and certainly from the players' perspective as well," Vivian said. "And then we need to have meaningful growth in that space as well.

"I think we're cognisant of that now and we need to take the federation on that journey to ensure we get that correction, and if not we need to find the trigger to negotiate the most appropriate way to get the pay levels up to those high performance standards.

"I think for the Matildas in particular, pay becomes very important. What they do is exceptional. But there are also other elements that come into consideration.

"One of the key elements the Socceroos have always embodied is this notion of professionalism, and an elite workplace. It has to be to the highest possible standard, and these things are important with the Matildas as well.

"In the preparation for this World Cup campaign they went into a fulltime program on part-time wages and that's one thing that needs to be remedied - ensuring they are remunerated appropriately for the requisite workload.

"The other thing is, elite athletes performing at the highest possible level need their working conditions to be requisite to that environment. They need to be afforded the best possible facilities and they need to be in a high-performance environment.

"I think they are important elements under the collective bargaining agreement that we need to ensure are included in the proposals, which they have been."

Most of the players in the Matildas squad are on annual contracts worth $21,000 with Football Federation Australia (FFA) and are paid match wages for playing in international matches - ranging from $500 to $1500 depending on the importance of the match - and a daily wage of $150 during tournaments.

They also divide a 30 per cent share of all prizemoney.

On top of that, the Matildas earn money playing for club teams either in the W-League here, or overseas.
But there is not much money to go around in the W-League, with each club governed by a salary cap of just $150,000.

In the NWSL in the US, the salary cap is $US265,000 and players can be paid anywhere from $6000 to $30,000 annually.

In England, 27 women players are paid up to 26,000 pounds annually by the national federation. The best of those players in the Women's Super League in England can earn up to about 35,000 pounds from their clubs as well.

But there are some players in the WSL earning as little as 50 pounds per week.

Marta, the Brazilian five-time FIFA women's player of the year, has been a big earner for her sheer playing ability alone. She was earning $US315,000 a year from her former club in Sweden - Tyreso - before it went bankrupt last year.

It is understood Marta has earned sizeable amounts from sponsorships and endorsements, but, still - how much would a male player with equal accomplishments earn? Obviously, we're talking Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo-type amounts.

Steph Houghton, the England women's captain, earns 65,000 pounds per year from a combination of club and country duties and it is estimated only about 4000 of that comes from sponsorship and endorsements.

The big winner in the sponsorship and endorsement stakes is US star Alex Morgan. She earns $US3 million per year and just over $US2.8 comes from sponsorship and endorsements. Nike, Coca-Cola and McDonalds are among her backers.

Morgan receives $US180,000 to play for the US national team. US clubs don't pay US national team players on top of their national-team wages.

But someone like Morgan is in the tiniest of minorities on a global scale and even the best of the Matildas could only dream of earning anything like she does at this point.

Ahead of Thursday's meeting, FFA told The World Game it had demonstrated its support for the Matildas in the crucial period leading up to the World Cup and was committed to improving conditions for the players.

"The Matildas have captured the imagination of all Australians with their performances at the World Cup," an FFA spokesperson said.

"FFA's heavy investment in the preparation for the World Cup is a clear indication of our intention to drive growth in women's football. The squad has been together in camp for more than five months through a tour of New Zealand, home internationals, the Cyprus Cup, a tour of Europe and several camps in Sydney and Canberra and it is showing on the pitch.

"Women's football is strategically important for the continued growth of football in Australia, referenced in the recently released Whole of Football Plan. The Matildas are inspiring a new generation of young girls to strive to emulate their heroes and it is our strategic challenge to convert these young girls into fans and members of W-League and A-League clubs.

"FFA is working hard to overcome the challenges in securing commercial partners for women's football on top of the commitment from Westfield who support both the W-League and Matildas.

"The results in Canada and the way the players have conducted themselves can only help in securing the commercial support that can drive significant growth in expenditure.

"As football continues to grow we will look to invest even further in women's football to create an environment that will help all players.

"The success of the players at the World Cup will also open doors to some of the big competitions around the world where they can earn good money and then come back to play in the Westfield W-League to broaden their earning capacity."

PFA is seeking a "whole-of-game" CBA, incorporating the Socceroos, the Matildas and the A-League. Representatives of FFA, the A-League and the clubs will join the union at Thursday's meeting.

Vivian said there was a chance for an in-principle agreement on a CBA to be reached at the meeting, but that if further negotiations were necessary then that is what would happen.

"We knew going into this process that a whole-of-game agreement, which hasn't been done before, was quite ambitious," Vivian said.

"We've got a lot of work to chew through and depending on how Thursday progresses we may or may not be scheduling additional negotiations, so we may have to let the current deal lapse on 30 June. It's a bit premature to say either way.

"I believe it's the 22nd meeting on Thursday. The players are incredibly committed to negotiating the whole of game agreement, but there are still gaps to be filled in for all three - the Socceroos, the Matildas and the A-League.

"Hopefully, a dedicated session will see those gaps bridged and if not we may need to afford ourselves additional time to negotiate."

Vivian said added costs were always the hurdle to increased commitment, but that it was important to look ahead to potential returns from what he felt were realistic long-term ambitions.

"I certainly believe there is a philosophical buy-in from FFA and the rest of the game's stake-holders, but invariably I think it's going to come back to the question: Is it going to be cost-prohibitive?" Vivian said.

"But I think it's a 'if you build it, they will come' scenario. Fulltime professionalism would mean the Matildas become even more commercially viable than they already are and you could drive a fantastic culture around such an investment.

"You would not only see it at the elite level, but also the grass-roots level. If you're a young athlete you're going to say 'I want to be a footballer, because they've got the best working conditions and I can have a fantastic career'.

"I think, from that perspective, we really need to create something now."

Source: SBS