U.S. Soccer responded to Thursday’s wage discrimination filing by five U.S. women’s national team stars with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a teleconference with a small group of journalists on Thursday night. Here are some of the highlights of what the U.S. Soccer officials said:
• U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati argued that the U.S. women do not generate as much revenue as the U.S. men’s team over a four-year World Cup cycle—a federation spokesperson said the men have generated nearly twice as much revenue as the women during that time—and Gulati added that revenue generation should be taken into account in the men’s and women’s collective bargaining agreements with U.S. Soccer.
My specific question to Gulati was: Do you think the U.S. women deserve to be paid equally to the U.S. men by U.S. Soccer, and if not, why not?
“I don’t want to use the word deserve in any of this,” Gulati said. “I’d reverse the question: Do you think revenue should matter at all in determination of compensation in a market economy? If we look at the track record of teams, a lot of different things go into the compensation for the players … Part of it is based on revenue, part of it is based on revenues that accrue from international competitions, part of it is based on incentives and the performance of the teams. All of that goes into it. We think very highly of the women’s national team, we want to compensate them fairly and we’ll sit down and work through that with them.”
As for revenue generation, Gulati added: “It is absolutely part of the equation, sure. And from everything I’ve heard with the players, they agree with that.”
• U.S. women’s player lawyer Jeffrey Kessler had told SI.com that the timing of the women’s action was due to U.S. Soccer communicating in CBA negotiations that the women would not get as much as the men in their new CBA. U.S. Soccer lawyer Russell Sauer denied that claim. “I can tell you categorically along with the other U.S. Soccer participants that statement or anything even remotely along those lines was never said,” argued Sauer, who said he has been at all three meetings in November, February and March.
• Sauer reiterated U.S. Soccer’s position that the women’s CBA is in place until December 31, 2016, based on the memorandum of understanding signed in 2013. The U.S. players maintain the CBA is no longer in place. A court in Chicago is expected to rule on the existence of the CBA in early June.
• A U.S. Soccer spokesperson disputed the revenue figures presented in the U.S. players’ complaint. “During the last four years, the men’s revenues have been significantly higher than the women’s national team,” the spokesperson said. “The numbers provided in the complaint at times are inaccurate, misleading or both. And looking at a single year doesn’t provide the entire picture. If you look at four or eight years cumulatively, the men’s national team revenues are almost twice that of the women’s national team.”
The spokesperson added that U.S. Soccer has invested approximately $10 million in the NWSL in the last three-plus years; that from 2011 to ’15 the U.S. men had an average home attendance of 29,781 to 16,229 for the women; and that the big difference in bonuses for the men’s and women’s World Cups is based largely on the difference in prize money awarded by FIFA.
• Asked if he could specify how much of U.S. Soccer’s sponsorship and TV income could be credited to the U.S. women and how much to the men, Gulati said: “The sponsorship and TV money are done collectively. We don’t break that down either with any of our partners or our TV partners. So that’s on a guaranteed basis. We don’t break that down in any of our accounting.” Gulati did say that TV ratings are substantially higher for the men than the women right now. “It’s not 10 or 20 or 30 or 50 percent higher, it’s a multiple right now on the men’s program versus the women’s program,” Gulati said.
• Gulati finished by saying he was confident of getting a new CBA done with the players for the start of 2017. “I have no doubt that we will get a deal done and we’ll get back to focusing on the game,” he said. “We’ll get a deal done that’s fair to the players that will involve a process of give and take. We’ve got a team that we’re very proud of. We’re committed to many of the issues they’ve raised, and we’ll figure out a way to get to those points with them.”