10.05.16

Equal Pay: Sens. Murray, Feinstein Say “Lack of Transparency” in Marketing Contracts Hinder Efforts to Combat Pay Inequality in U.S. Soccer

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team is ranked first in the world—but its members are paid significantly less than their male counterparts

 

In new letter, Sens. Murray, Feinstein seek information regarding commercial and revenue agreements that may impact wage disparity between the Women’s and Men’s Teams

 

Sens. cite a “lack of transparency surrounding the revenue generated for U.S. Soccer” that “makes it challenging to accurately understand the magnitude of the disparity”

 

This new step follows a letter sent by Sens. to U.S. Soccer in August: LINK

 

Sens. have said pay inequality in U.S. Soccer is “emblematic of gender-based wage discrepancies across country”; continue to push their Paycheck Fairness Act to help provide all women tools to fight pay discrimination: LINK

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to Soccer United Marketing LLC (SUM) requesting information to better understand how commercial and revenue agreements may help explain wage disparity between the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (Women’s Team) and the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (Men’s Team). SUM, a subsidiary of Major League Soccer (MLS), owns the marketing, promotional, and commercial rights to U.S. Soccer, in addition to MLS, the Mexican National Team, and several other leagues and conferences in the Americas.

 

According to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filings, a top-tier player on the Women’s Team winning 20 games earns less than 40 percent of what a top-tier Men’s Team player would earn.

 

“We strongly believe that pay disparities like the one between the teams send the wrong message to young people and have no place in the 21st century economy,” wrote the Senators. “As the company that owns the marketing rights to the United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer), you are uniquely positioned to shed light on this issue.”

 

U.S. Soccer has previously indicated that gap in pay earned by the Women’s Team and Men’s Team players can be partially attributed to the fact that the Men’s Team generates more total revenue and more marketing revenue than the Women’s Team; even though, as stated in the letter to SUM, “the 2015 Women’s World Cup viewership on Fox networks set a record for soccer in general, not just women’s soccer, and the final match had a higher viewership than every game of the NBA Finals and every show in primetime from 2014 to 2015.”

 

Senators Murray and Feinstein are concerned that “general lack of transparency surrounding the revenue generated for U.S. Soccer by SUM makes it challenging to accurately understand the magnitude of the disparity in the revenue generated by the Women’s and Men’s Teams and the impact that differentials in these revenues have on the salaries of the Men’s and Women’s Team players.”

 

In order to clarify these and other issues, and “given the fact that many details of marketing agreements are confidential,” the Senators are requesting that SUM provide:

 

1.      A breakdown of the annual revenue generated for SUM by the Women’s Team and the Men’s Team over the past eight years.

2.      A description of the individual revenue streams that include revenue generated from the Women’s Team over the past eight years.

3.      The percent of contracts that include sponsorship of Women’s Team games.

4.      A description of any ongoing efforts by SUM to promote the growth of women’s soccer both domestically and abroad.

5.      Any other information you deem critical to help us better understand the relationship between the disparity in compensation and the marketing rights to U.S. Soccer.

 

Background:

 

In March, five top female players filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team are paid significantly less than their male counterparts, despite the women’s team’s record of winning three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. Their complaint highlights the pervasive wage gap that women face all across our country. More than 50 years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, American women on average still only make 79 cents on the dollar. The wage gap is even worse for women of color, with African-American women earning, on average, just 60 cents on the dollar, and Latino women earning, on average, only 55 cents on the dollar.

 

In May, Senators Murray, Feinstein, and Mikulski—along with 15 of their colleagues—introduced Senate Resolution 462 to urge the U.S. Soccer Federation to end pay disparities for all athletes. The resolution passed the Senate by voice vote on May 26, and now Senate Democrats are calling on Senate Republicans to bring the Paycheck Fairness Act to the Senate floor for a vote to help strengthen equal pay protections for all American women. The Paycheck Fairness Act would take much-needed steps to close the gender wage gap by prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers, strengthening penalties for equal pay violations, and holding employers accountable for proving that wage gaps between men and women are caused by factors aside from gender. The bill would also empower women to negotiate for equal pay through training and outreach.

 

Full text of the letter is available HERE and below:

 

October 5, 2016

 

 

 

Mr. Don Garber

Chief Executive Officer

Soccer United Marketing, LLC

420 5th Avenue, 7th Floor

New York, NY 10018

 

Dear Mr. Garber,

 

            We have been focused on the disparity in compensation paid to members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (Women’s Team) and the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (Men’s Team).  To that end, we write to request your assistance in gaining insight into how the marketing contracts and strategies may contribute to this disparity.  Since Soccer United Marketing LLC (SUM), a subsidiary of Major League Soccer (MLS) since 2004, owns the marketing, promotional, and commercial rights to U.S. Soccer we look forward to having you provide information so that we can better understand how the commercial and revenue agreements impact the wage disparity between the Women’s and Men’s Teams.

 

We strongly believe that pay disparities like the one between the teams send the wrong message to young people and have no place in the 21st century economy.  In particular, we are interested in learning more about the amount of revenue generated by the Women’s Team and how the relative value of the Women’s Team and Men’s Team are assessed by SUM.  As the company that owns the marketing rights to the United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer), you are uniquely positioned to shed light on this issue.

 

As you are aware, players on the Women’s Team make less than players on the Men’s Team although the Women’s Team has been extraordinarily successful, winning three FIFA Women’s World Cups and four Olympic Gold Medals.  The Women’s Team is a source of national pride and serves as an inspiration to young athletes across the United States and around the world.  Yet, according to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filings, a top-tier player on the Women’s Team winning 20 games earns less than 40 percent of what a top-tier Men’s player would earn.

 

U.S. Soccer has indicated that the gap in the pay earned by the Women’s Team and Men’s Team players can be partially attributed to the fact that the Men’s Team generates more total revenue and more marketing revenue than the Women’s Team.  According to data from U.S. Soccer, since 2005 the Men’s Team has generated three times more revenue for U.S. Soccer than the Women’s Team.  In fact, U.S. Soccer representatives have suggested that some networks may only be interested in carrying the men’s games and prefer not to broadcast the women’s games at all.  This is unexpected given that according to U.S. Soccer’s 2016 Annual General Meeting FY17 Budget Executive Summary, the 2015 Women’s World Cup viewership on Fox networks set a record for soccer in general, not just women’s soccer, and the final match had a higher viewership than every game of the NBA Finals and every show in primetime from 2014 to 2015. 

 

According to U.S. Soccer financial reports, SUM pays a yearly minimum amount to U.S. Soccer in exchange for the commercial rights to the Men’s and Women’s Teams.  Additional revenue generated from marketing U.S. Soccer events beyond a specified amount is split between SUM and U.S. Soccer.  In 2014 and 2015, SUM paid $15.4 million and $18.3 million to U.S. Soccer respectively under this arrangement which includes $6.7 million and $5.5 million in revenue sharing.  However, given the pooled contract and sales structure, it is unclear how much of either the $15.4 million or 18.3 million is attributable to the Women’s or Men’s Teams alone.  

 

Additionally, SUM owns the rights to leagues and conferences beyond just U.S. Soccer, including the men’s professional soccer league MLS, the Mexican National Team, and several other leagues and conferences in the Americas. When negotiating with sponsors, SUM may bundle sponsorship of the Men’s and Women’s Teams with a variety of other soccer teams and tournaments in your portfolio.  Given the fact that many details of marketing agreements are confidential, this adds to the confusion about the revenue generated for U.S. Soccer that is attributable to either the Women’s or Men’s Teams. 

 

            This general lack of transparency surrounding the revenue generated for U.S. Soccer by SUM makes it challenging to accurately understand the magnitude of the disparity in the revenue generated by the Women’s and Men’s Teams and the impact that differentials in these revenues have on the salaries of the Men’s and Women’s Team players.  In order to clarify these issues, we request that SUM provide:

 

  1. A breakdown of the annual revenue generated for SUM by the Women’s Team and the Men’s Team over the past eight years.
  2. A description of the individual revenue streams that include revenue generated from the Women’s Team over the past eight years.
  3. The percent of contracts that include sponsorship of Women’s Team games.
  4. A description of any ongoing efforts by SUM to promote the growth of women’s soccer both domestically and abroad.
  5. Any other information you deem critical to help us better understand the relationship between the disparity in compensation and the marketing rights to U.S. Soccer.

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  If you have any questions about this request, please contact Beth Stein on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee at (202) 224-2931.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

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