US women's football team wins long battle for equal pay with male counterparts

The US Women's team won the 2019 World Cup

ITV News Correspondent John Ray looks at whether pay differs between England's men's and women's teams

The US women's national football team has won an historic case securing equal pay with their male counterparts and a $24 million (£17.66m) payout.

The team had been fighting the discrimination case since 2019 and has been wrought with controversial arguments by US Soccer.

The two sides announced a deal on Tuesday that will see players split $22 million (£16.19m), about one-third of what they had sought in damages.

US Soccer also agreed to establish a fund with $2 million (£1.47m) to benefit the players in their post-soccer careers and charitable efforts aimed at growing the sport for women.

Pay equality for the US team follows similar pledges by major national football teams, including Brazil, Australia, Norway, New Zealand and all four UK teams.

The US women's team perform significantly better than their male counterparts and have won the previous two World Cups.

Their success has made them celebrities in the US and has significantly increased attention in the game.

Star player Megan Rapinoe welcomed the announcement Credit: AP

“I think we’re going to look back on this moment and just think, ‘Wow, what an incredible turning point in the history of U.S. Soccer that changed the game and changed the world, really, forever,’” star midfielder Megan Rapinoe said.

The settlement was a victory for the women, whose fans chanted “Equal Pay!” when they won their second straight World Cup title in France in 2019.

“I just think it’s so difficult sometimes to talk about and to articulate the kind of discrimination, abuse, inequity and disrespect that so many women feel so often in their job,” Rapinoe said.

“And I think we were able to start to put a voice to that, put a face to it, put talking points to it and put a sort of movement behind it.”

The agreement was also a success for US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone, a former player who became head of the federation in March 2020.

Ms Cone replaced Carlos Cordeiro, who quit after the federation made a legal filing in the case that claimed women had less physical ability and responsibility than male counterparts.

The legal battle began when five American stars, including Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alex Morgan, filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2016.

The players sued three years later, seeking damages under the federal Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The sides settled the working conditions portion in December 2020, dealing with issues such as charter flights, accommodations and playing surfaces. They were scheduled to argue on March 7 before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an attempt to reinstate the equal pay portion thrown out by a U.S. District Court.

The players and the federation asked the appeals court on Tuesday morning to take the case off its calendar. The $22 million will be split into individual amounts proposed by the players, subject to the district court’s approval.

“Every generation has taken on that fight to close the gap and every generation has left this program better for that fight, and we as the current players are thrilled that this fight has led to the closing of that gap,” Sauerbrunn said.

“There are a lot of on-field accomplishments like World Cups and Olympics, league championships, but this will really stand out as one of the most meaningful moments.”

Cone said the federation’s method of equalising World Cup bonuses has yet to be determined due to the large difference in prize money awarded by FIFA for the male and female tournament.

The US women have won four World Cups since the programme’s start in 1985, while the men haven’t reached a semi-final since 1930.