High-ranking officials of FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, have been indicted for corruption. The illegal activities don't stop there, however. Rampant gender bias exists at every level of FIFA, from the top down. This multi-billion dollar powerhouse deliberately excludes and discriminates against women. It's time for that to end.
Last week, The Guardian published an op-ed by Legal Momentum calling for an end to gender bias in FIFA. In support of all women, especially the athletes from around the world competing in the current Women's World Cup, Legal Momentum is calling on FIFA's leadership to advance pay equity, appoint women to top leadership positions and ensure that all playing fields are grass, not turf.
Legal Momentum Calls for All World Cup Games to Be Played on Grass
Last year, 84 women players sued FIFA when it announced that the 2015 Women's World Cup would be played on artificial turf instead of natural grass. Turf greatly increases risk of career-ending injuries such as ACL tears, concussions, arthritis and antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. No major men's tournament has ever been played on artificial turf. In fact, natural grass is often installed over artificial turf for men's tournaments. Shockingly, FIFA refused free offers to install natural grass at all Women's World Cup venues. Instead, it installed new turf fields!
Soccer federations, to which FIFA gives hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, threatened to bar the women involved in the lawsuit from playing on their national teams if they continued to pursue their case.
Legal Momentum Calls for Pay Equity for Women Players and Leadership Roles for Women
Women players are paid a pittance. For example, US club teams pay women between $6,000 and $30,000 annually, with most players earning the lower end of the scale. Women simply cannot support themselves or their families on such salaries. (The poverty rate for a family of four in the US is under $25,000.) Men playing on US club teams can earn up to $7.1 million, and the average salary is $207,831.
The highest-paid male player earns a $19 million base salary (before endorsements, bonuses and prize money). In contrast, the three top-earning women earned $400,000, $190,000 and $70,000, respectively.
Legal Momentum Calls for FIFA to Put Women in Top Leadership Positions
FIFA deliberately excludes women from senior positions, including important oversight bodies--such as the ethics committee investigating corruption in the World Cup bidding process. Of the 27 members of FIFA's executive committee, only three are women--and none of those women are vice presidents or higher. Rather, they are "members" or "members for special tasks." Research abounds showing a correlation between decreased corruption and women in senior leadership positions. If FIFA is to be swept clean, FIFA should put women in senior management positions, including the Presidency.
Since its inception, Legal Momentum has been a champion of female athletes, and has worked tirelessly to ensure the economic security and personal safety of female athletes. Demand gender equity in FIFA by sharing this post and posting on social media using the hashtag #breakthegrassceiling.