In a groundbreaking move for gender parity, last week, Brazil and England joined the countries like Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Finland to announce that both of their men's and women's national teams will receive equal pay, setting an example for other countries to follow it.
But, it does not only have to be in football but also in other sports, too. Female athletes from nations like the US to the European nations like Finland has to fight for gender parity. However, the issue of equal play came to the public eye when the United States women's team sued the governing body U.S. Soccer in 2019 alleging gender discrimination in earnings and working conditions.
The situation is similar to what female players from India have to go through. Be it in football or in what Indian fans believe it as religion - Cricket. Let us take a look at how women players in India are treated.
Male cricketers in India who are considered as gods are handed with some excellent payments, and endorsement deals whereas, women players are still stuck even in getting what half of the male cricketers get.
Grade A women cricketers including T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur, opener Smriti Mandhana, and spinner Poonam Yadav get $68,000 (INR 50 lakh) each annually despite displaying better performances, including reaching the 50-over World Cup final in 2017. Meanwhile, top male players in the same category earn nearly $1 million (INR 7 crore) on the annual contract of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which is the world’s richest.
However, what makes it even sadder that players like Mandhana – the 2018 International Cricket Council (ICC) women’s cricketer of the year said it would be unreasonable for women to ask for equal pay. And why, please read.
“We need to understand that the revenue we get is through men’s cricket. The day women’s cricket starts earning revenue, I will be the first person to say that we need the same thing. But right now, we can’t say that. I don’t think any of my teammates are thinking about this [pay] gap because the only focus right now is to win matches for India, get the crowd coming in, and earn revenues. That what we are aiming for, and if that happens, everything else will fall in place. And for that, we need to perform. It is unfair on our part to say that we need to be paid as much as the men – it is not right. So, I don’t think I want to comment on that gap.”
To some extent, we can understand, why she made a statement like that. But, also one needs to understand that she is undermining her own hard work. This statement signals that female athletes play less hard than male players which can shock many female athletes across the world.
It was in 2006 when the BCCI took control of women’s cricket but female players had to wait until 2015, 11 years after their male colleagues, to get the annual pay contracts that give them financial security. One should not overlook that India’s elite women cricketers have been making significant strides on and off the field. Be it youngster Shafali Verma or veteran spinner Poonam Yadav.
According to the mansworldindia.com, it was reported that an average professional player, who played for India made anywhere between Rs 40 and 50 lakh per annum. Their salaries were increased are drawing anywhere between Rs 65 and 70 lakh,” said the All India Football Association’s spokesperson, Nilanjan Datta earlier this year. On the other hand, a female footballer who plays for the country earns between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh, according to a source close to the association.
"I am actually happy that in some countries are getting equal pay as the men, but in India, I don’t see that happening or the gap getting lesser anytime soon. In those countries, it only became possible because the players came up and stood together for such a matter but in India, it’s still a far fetched goal," Dalima Chhibber who won the Most Valuable Player Award during India's 5th SAFF triumph said.
"I feel women’s football lacks financial security and support. It is hard for us to think of sustaining on the money we get from playing. Most of the players are working side-by-side which hampers the training schedule as it is also important for us to financially support our families. Since some players are working, one major problem is to get holidays sanctioned by the firms each time we aim to hit the ground for practice," she was quoted as saying to another media.
Having said that, if countries mentioned above are willing to pay equal to men's and women's national football team, then AIFF should at least consider paying equally to our players when the Indian women's football team enjoyed a lively 2019. A fifth successive SAFF Championship title, a third South Asian Games triumph, the AFC Olympic Qualifiers (though they were shown doors after the second round), the Gold Cup in India, and a streak of exposure tours and friendlies, including the COTIF Cup in Spain.
It was a like scripting history as India played a whopping 32 matches, which is equivalent to the total number of games it played in the five years between 2014 and 2018. It is really hard to overlook such instances that they have progressed so much but it does not lead to any financial stability.
In India, the Hockey world as we see a minimum of the 10-fold wage gap between the two genders’ salaries when it comes to the national sport.
In Squash, India’s ace squash player Dipika Pallikal who won gold, silver, and bronze medals at various international events, refused to play in the squash nationals, protesting against the unequal rewards on offer for male and female players. The male winner’s prize money was Rs 1,20,000, while the female winner would only get Rs 50,000. Unfair? Yes, it is!
There are not any reports from the sports federations about the salaries provided to the men as well as to the women
When PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik have led to non-cricket endorsements growing by 83.5% from Rs 42 crore in 2015 to Rs 77.1 crore in 2016, so can any other female athletes.
It is understood that wages depend on how much revenue a match is generating, or what’s the turnout but it does not mean that questions should not be raised. Until and unless we question the authorities the focus will not shift, people will avoid watching women’s sport, which in turn will affect their wages. So, we want to draw attention to the need for equal pay and equal air time to bring about parity between the genders.
After all, Brazil and England agreed to pay equally when players like Jordan Nobbs and Beth England, called on the Football Association to pay them equally to their male counterparts. The problem is not only about the generation of revenue but also is marketing. They are not marketing athletes as much as they invest in male athletes be it any sport. When marketing is not done properly, then the critics come and say, "See..No one is interested in them." Marketing is a broader aspect that leads to equal pay.
Following comes the main reason for many parents’ reluctance to send their children to participate in sports events which cannot even get financial stability in their own lives.
The truth is that from Sita to the present-day woman, all women across countries still have to prove themselves in front of the world to get their abilities acknowledged. We can write, talk, debate, or discuss as much as we want but it is all upon the athletes who need to stand up against it. Equal pay is a hot topic especially in the film industry but women’s sports in India are invisible until we start looking at numbers that resist women to break the barriers.