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Moving the goalposts: Analysing the differences between men & women's football

by Victoria Collins
10 min read

With the Women's World Cup expanding in scale and prominence, questions are being raised about the evident gaps between male and female sports.

At every Euros and World Cup, the England teams have the backing of their whole country as “it’s coming home!” is sung in unison.

In 2022, the chant finally rang true. After years without an England football win, the Lionesses took home the trophy. This win threw women’s football into the spotlight and showed just why its investment and backing is so important.

Although women’s football has come a long way, with the FA now rewarding both England teams equal match fees and bonuses, it will be a long time until men’s and women’s football will be seen as a level playing field at club level. 

With that in mind, the Evoluted digital PR team has analysed how pronounced the difference between men's and women’s football is. In this study, we analysed data sources to explore the differences between the following: 

Further to this, we explored:

Exploring the club salary differences between England’s male and female footballers

In all walks of life, women continue to pay the price of gender salary inequality. But no job has a wage gap quite like a male and female professional footballer. 

Despite a growing interest in women's football, female players often face substantial disparities in earnings compared to their male counterparts. As the fight for gender equality continues to be a hot topic, Evoluted has researched the club salaries of our last male representative team and our current female representative England team to see the percentage difference between salaries. 

Position Female Footballer FF Salary Male Footballer MF Salary % Difference
Manager Sarina Wiegman £400,000 Gareth Southgate £5,000,000 1150%
Goalkeeper Hannah Hampton £47,000 Jordan Pickford £5,720,000 12070%
Goalkeeper Mary Earps £60,000 Nick Pope £5,200,000 8567%
Goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck £47,000* Aaron Ramsdale £6,240,000 13176%
Defender Millie Bright £35,000 Trent Alexander-Arnold £9,360,000 26642%
Defender Lucy Bronze £200,000 Kyle Walker £8,320,000 4060%
Defender Jess Carter £47,000* Harry Maguire £9,820,000 20794%
Defender Niamh Charles £47,000* Luke Shaw £10,400,000 22028%
Defender Alex Greenwood £200,000 John Stones £13,000,000 6400%
Defender Esme Morgan £47,000* Kieran Trippier £7,500,000 15857%
Defender Lotte Wubben-Moy £47,000* Ben White £6,240,000 13177%
Midfielder Laura Coombs £47,000* Jude Bellingham £11,440,000 24240%
Midfielder Jordan Nobbs £47,000* Mason Mount £13,000,000 27560%
Midfielder Georgia Stanway £47,000* Kalvin Phillips £8,320,000 17602%
Midfielder Ella Toone £60,000 Declan Rice £13,000,000 21567%
Midfielder Keira Walsh £400,000 James Maddison £8,840,000 2110%
Midfielder Katie Zelem £47,000* Jordan Henderson £9,880,000 20921%
Forwards Rachel Daly £47,000* Marcus Rashford £10,400,000 22028%
Forwards Bethany England £47,000* Phil Foden £10,400,000 22028%
Forwards Lauren Hemp £47,000* Jack Grealish £11,960,000 25347%
Forwards Lauren James £47,000* Harry Kane £10,400,000 22028%
Forwards Chloe Kelly £75,000 Bukayo Saka £11,960,000 15847%
Forwards Katie Robinson £47,000* Raheem Sterling £15,600,000 33091%
Forwards Alessia Russo £80,000 Callum Wilson £6,240,000 7700%

*For the female footballers whose salaries were not available, the figures are from the BBC’s analysis of what the average Women's Super League player earns. 

Male footballers in England get paid nearly 17,000% more than female footballers 

Only one team’s annual club salary could be described as exceptional, as the male team received on average 16,906% more a year than the female squad. 

Despite both making crucial goals in the Euros, Chloe Kelly is reported as earning £75,000 a year, while fellow forward, Bukayo Saka, earns 15,847% more than her with a yearly sum of £11,960,000. 

Even at the lower end of the wage gap, manager Sarina Wiegman is on a respectable £400,000 a year, while former footballer turned England manager Gareth Southgate earns a reported £5,000,000 a year. This is a whopping 1150% more - despite only one manager bringing home the winning title and both having the same occupation and role. 

How does this compare to their salaries during national tournaments?

The FA states that it pays its women players exactly the same as their male counterparts for representing England, both in terms of match fees and match bonuses. 

But recently, there has been a heated debate surrounding the female squad's demand for a pre-established performance-based bonus structure independent of the FIFA prize money, similar to what the Australian and American teams already have in place.

In June, FIFA disclosed that a significant portion of the record-breaking $110 million Women's World Cup prize money, approximately $49 million, would be directly allocated to individual players. Each participating player would receive at least $30,000, while members of the winning squad would receive a substantial $270,000 each.

The remaining funds are to be divided among the participating federations, giving them the authority to determine the allocation of shares to their respective teams and players, if at all. FIFA has also committed an additional $42 million to support Women's World Cup preparations for the federations and players' clubs.

When questioned about the matter, FIFA referred to the statements made by its President, Gianni Infantino, back in March when the prize money details were announced. He expressed that FIFA was embarking on a groundbreaking journey to promote equality in women's football, with the ultimate goal of achieving payment parity between the men's and women's World Cups by 2026 and 2027, respectively.

Male football players outscore female footballers on Instagram followers - but not by as many as you think

The Lionesses have garnered a large Insta following since their England win, despite less media attention. 

From WAGs to riches, Brits have always shown an interest in footballers’ lives off the pitch and this is still the case in 2023 as male football players continue to amass millions of followers on their Instagram.

Although the female players often feature less in press, interest in the team’s personal life is growing day-by-day, especially across the Lionesses’ social media profiles.

Unsurprisingly, big hitters and famous faces like Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane see the highest follower counts with 16.2m followers and 15.1m followers respectively. 

However, some of the female players are closing the social media gap or even surpassing the following count with their male position equivalents. For instance, Mary Earps has nearly 140,000 more followers than fellow England goalie, Nick Pope, despite earning 8567% less than him.  

Position Female Footballer Social Following Male Footballer Social Following
Manager Sarina Wiegman 129,000 Gareth Southgate 208,000
Goalkeeper Hannah Hampton 382.000 Jordan Pickford 1,200,000
Goalkeeper Mary Earps 382,000 Nick Pope 248,000
Goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck 158,000 Aaron Ramsdale 1,100,000
Defender Millie Bright 302,000 Trent Alexander-Arnold 10,000,000
Defender Lucy Bronze 568,000 Kyle Walker 4,000,000
Defender Jess Carter 78,400 Harry Maguire 4,700,000
Defender Niamh Charles 142,000 Luke Shaw 4,900,000
Defender Alex Greenwood 419,000 John Stones 2,400,000
Defender Esme Morgan 76,600 Kieran Trippier 1,300,000
Defender Lotte Wubben-Moy 99,900 Ben White 910,000
Midfielder Laura Coombs 70,400 Jude Bellingham 14,100,000
Midfielder Jordan Nobbs 219,000 Mason Mount 6,300,000
Midfielder Georgia Stanway 322,000 Kelvin Phillips 1,200,000
Midfielder Ella Toone 503,000 Declan Rice 2,600,000
Midfielder Keira Walsh 272,000 James Maddison 1,500,000
Midfielder Katie Zelem 203,000 Jordan Henderson 5,300,000
Forwards Rachel Daly 337,000 Marcus Rashford 16,200,000
Forwards Bethany England 198,000 Phil Foden 9,200,000
Forwards Lauren Hemp 233,000 Jack Grealish 8,600,000
Forwards Lauren James 502,000 Harry Kane 15,100,000
Forwards Chloe Kelly 564,000 Bukayo Saka 4,900,000
Forwards Katie Robinson 16,300 Raheem Sterling 10,500,000
Forwards Alessia Russo 521,000 Callum WIlson 1,100,000

*The Gareth Southgate data uses his Twitter following as he didn’t have an active Instagram account

Broadcast Bias: A closer look at male & female football match viewing figures

141% more Brits tuned in to watch Men’s Euro Final, despite the Lionesses taking the crown

Delving into the viewership numbers of male and female football matches, it becomes evident that there is a substantial disparity in audience engagement. Now Evoluted has researched the differences in viewing figures between UK and worldwide match male and female finals. 

UK Viewers Worldwide Viewers
World Cup Men's Final: Argentina vs. France 2022 19,600,000 1,500,000,000
World Cup Women's Final: USA vs. Netherlands 2019 4,700,000 1,120,000,000
% Difference in Viewing Figures 317% 34%
Euro's Men's Final: England vs Italy 42,000,000 328,000,000
Euro's Women's Final: England vs. Germany 17,400,000 50,000,000
% Difference in Viewing Figures 141% 556%

According to research from the Women's Sport Trust (WST), the amount of time the average viewer spent watching women's sport in 2022 is more than double the 2021 figure. 

These phenomenal viewership gains show that the interest in women’s football is increasing as the WST found the average viewer watched eight hours and 44 minutes of women's sport in 2022, compared with only three hours and 47 minutes in 2021. 

However, our statistics show that a staggering 141% more British viewers tuned in to watch the Men's Euro Final, even though the Lionesses brought home the win. 

While the Lionesses' triumph marked a historic moment for women's football, the significant gap in viewership highlights the ongoing challenges in achieving gender equality within the sport's fanbase and media coverage. 

In order to grow the appeal of female representation in football, it’s key that women play a vital role across the FA. 

Which of the UK’s top teams have the best and worst female representation on Premier League club boards 

Examining the UK's top football teams, it’s apparent that there are significant differences in female representation on club boards. 

Some clubs have taken great strides towards inclusivity and gender diversity by actively including women in decision-making positions, while others still have a long way to go in this aspect. Evoluted lists the most and least gender-inclusive clubs. 

UK's Top 10 Clubs % of Female Representation on Board
1 Tottenham Hotspur 25
2 Leicester City 25
3 Everton 25
4 Chelsea 20
5 West Ham 17
6 Manchester United 8
7 Manchester City 0
8 Liverpool 0
9 Arsenal 0
10 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

In joint first place, with 25% female representation on their club boards are Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City and Everton. 

While the worst for gender inclusivity on their club boards were Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers who didn’t have a single female. 

Deloitte, who has commissioned the report said: “There are a myriad of benefits to having increased diversity at all levels of an organisation, including ensuring the right mix of skills and experience and constructive challenge, helping to define the connection between an organisation’s stated purpose and its business model, and helping to strengthen corporate culture. It also brings diversity of thought and visible leadership to the entire industry.”

A woman’s place at a football match

11% more women are attending matches since the start of the century, but the same number reports hearing sexist comments at matches

Despite its universal appeal, it’s only in the past two decades we’ve started to see an increase in diversity among fans attending matches. According to a 2022 Fair Game Gender Equality Report, women make up a substantial minority of fans of men’s football. For example, women football fans are estimated to make up 26% of fans at Premier League matches and 30% of fans who follow or watch the Premier League on TV or online. 

This shows a gradual increase in the Millenium, as a National Fan Report conducted by The FA in 2005 said 15% was the average attendance of women at a Premier League match. 

Then in 2010, a study by Populus found that of the 13.6 million fans who attended Premier League matches, 2.6 million (19%) were female - this was an increase of 4%. Now, with figures estimating that female fans make up 26% of spectators at Premier League matches, that’s an increase of 11% since 2005. 

According to FSA’s Women at a Match Report, the main catalyst behind football attendance starts with family. Parents and other family members contribute to over 70% of women's initial experiences attending matches. This dispels the notion that women merely tag along with their partners, as less than one in 10 reported attending their first match with their partners. While having shared interests proves beneficial, as one in four fans now attend matches together with their partners.

Women reported experiencing more sexism at a match since 2014

The 2021 Women at a Match Report also reports that there have been more reports of sexist behaviours, compared with 2014’s figures.

2014 2021 Which have you experienced at a match? % Increase
23% 34% Heard sexist comments 11%
34% 44% Been told you know a lot for a girl/woman 10%
20% 26% Been told you only go because you fancy the players 6%
18% 24% Heard sexist chanting 6%

FSA Board Member Ally Simcock said: “The FSA is clear on this – there is no place whatsoever at football for sexist or misogynistic behaviour. We’d encourage all supporters to challenge it where they can, and if necessary, report it to their club or the authorities. “Football should be a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.” 

To achieve true equality across genders in football, there remains significant work to be done on multiple fronts. Our report on the salary difference shows the glaring disparity in salaries between male and female players. Although some could argue women’s football doesn’t bring in the same revenue as men’s football if it were to receive the same media back and funding then could this change? Increasing media attention on women's football is imperative, as this will not only provide the recognition it deserves but also inspire the next generation of female players. 

The report highlights the ongoing appeal of football, with 11% more female fans attending matches than nearly 20 years ago. However, in order to create a comfortable environment for all fans, tackling the 11% rise in sexist comments at matches is crucial to fostering an inclusive and respectful atmosphere for all fans. 

A brief history:

Although the Lionesses were victorious for England, it’s taken a long time to get to a place where the women’s game is celebrated even a percentage as much as the male game equivalent. Surprisingly, the Football Association (FA) enforced a decades-long ban on the sport until 1970. England took a giant stride forward by establishing a fully professional women's league only in 2018.

Written by Victoria Collins
Digital PR Specialist