Gender pay gap remains barrier to women playing football full-time

  • Study surveyed 736 players from 12 countries and six continents
  • 23% took unpaid leave to fulfill footballing commitments
  • Denmark's Euro 2024 squad turned down a pay rise to ensure equal pay for their female counterparts
Megan Rapinoe has been a pioneer in the fight for equal pay
Megan Rapinoe has been a pioneer in the fight for equal pay / Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/GettyImages

Over half of elite women footballers around the world are earning less than $5,000 (£3,940) a year from playing, while over a quarter have a secondary job.

A new report published by Fifpro, Fifa and Australia’s Edith Cowen University outlines how most top-flight women players are unable to earn enough through football to fully sustain their livelihoods. 

A total of 736 players were surveyed across twelve countries and six continents, including Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Fiji, Korea Republic, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, USA and Sweden. 

Of those surveyed:

  • 71.9% were playing at the professional level and were on a remunerated employment contract;
  • 73.9% earned under $19,000 (£14,973) per year playing football;
  • 67% earned a substantial portion of their income from playing football;
  • 27% have a secondary job; 36% were undertaking formal education or study;
  • Over half (52.8%) were earning less than $4,999 (£3,939) a year from playing football;
  • 60% currently held a secondary job on a non-permanent contract;
  • 20% of players had a secondary full-time job and 23% reported they took unpaid leave to fulfill their football commitments;
  • Only 18% of players had a written contract as a member of a national team 

Denmark's players celebrate Christian Eriksen's goal at Euro 2024
Denmark's Euro 2024 squad turned down a pay rise earlier this month to ensure equality with their female teammates / DAMIEN MEYER/GettyImages

Dr Alex Culvin, head of strategy and research of women’s football at Fifpro, explained: “Women’s elite football has seen an exponential, but uneven, trajectory towards professionalisation in the past two decades. 

“Yet, access to professional opportunities are not consistent across the world, meaning that many players are required to support their football career with a second source of income, which undermines players’ ability to dedicate their time to excelling in professional football, whilst also impacting their physical and mental wellbeing.”

He went on to stress the importance of “continued investment into professional women’s football, with a focus of that investment towards a quality of employment that allows for football to be the full-time focus of players - in environments that are supportive of their sporting and overall wellbeing”.

The inequality hit headlines again recently when Denmark's Euro 2024 squad took matters into their own hands and refused a pay rise, to ensure their female counterparts earn equal pay when they play for their national team.

USWNT legend Megan Rapinoe dedicated a huge amount of her career to fighting for equal pay, filing a players' lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation which led to a historic agreement in 2022, on a new 50-50 split that pays women and men on the national team the same salary and prize money.