Kirby eyes World Cup win for equal pay boost
Chelsea forward Fran Kirby has stressed the importance of success in France for the Lionesses, in order to gain parity in pay with the men's team.
With the tournament set to begin on June 7, Kirby told reporters that the tournament could have a huge impact on growing the women's game.
She said: “Ultimately, we need to grow the women’s game. That’s the biggest issue – it always has been. Then you can talk about equal pay and everything else.
Fran Kirby struck but England were unable to hang onto their lead against AustraliaPA Sport
“Ultimately we are doing the same job as the men, but I understand that we’re not filling out stadiums. That makes it difficult to have that argument.
“As the women’s game improves and progresses, then they’re the conversations we can start to have.”
Kirby, 25, referred to the ongoing pay dispute between the US women's national team and the US Soccer Federation.
The US women's team consistently outperform the men's team by a considerable margin as the current World Cup title holders and one of the favourites to win in France, compared to a men's side who did not even qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Despite this, the women claim they are paid in their salaries less than half what their male counterparts earn through their bonus structure.
Kirby continued: “The USA are in dispute at the moment but they’re selling out arenas, they’ve won the World Cup and have some of the best players in the world in their team. They’re in a position to do that.
“We need to win the World Cup to have a leg to stand on in those situations. But if we keep selling out stadiums like we are, improving the game on and off the pitch, those arguments can start to creep in.”
Neville’s team face Denmark in Walsall in their penultimate World Cup warm-up match, before taking on New Zealand in Brighton next Saturday.
It’s not just the US women’s team outperforming their male counterparts. Lest we forget the England men’s team’s last few international outings prior to last year’s World Cup.
Even then, the women’s team finished their last cup in third place, compared to Gareth Southgate’s unexpected phoenix from the flames, rising to the dizzy heights of fourth-place last summer.
It follows the revelations of player-turned-pundit Alex Scott, a few weeks ago, that despite having enjoyed an elite-level career as a footballer and holding a sports writing and broadcasting degree, she is consistently called out for a perceived lack of qualification for the job – despite being doubly qualified compared to many of her male counterparts.
Kirby’s comments remind us again that in football – as in many other male-dominated jobs – a woman is expected to be doing her job and then some in order to compete to the same rewards as men – it’s unthinkable that the men’s team would be expected to win a World Cup in order to establish themselves as worthy of fair pay.
Kirby is right of course that the women’s game brings in far less money, and perhaps the argument makes more sense at club level, where matches typically draw crowds of around 2000 at the upper end of the scale. But this is not the case at national level.
It is also fair to say that we have seen the impact of investment in women’s football on the quality of the game, having just finished the first fully-professional FA WSL season, with this expected to continue to rise thanks to recent investment announcements by the likes of high street brands Barclays and Boots.
As the hype around the Lionesses gathers pace ahead of the Women’s World Cup, the FA should put their money where their media narrative is, pay all their national players a fair wage and help continue to build on the exciting trajectory of the women’s side.