Last week, Crystal Palace owner and chairman Steve Parish had this to say about finances in the women’s game:
“I’m excited that we’re going to have to put in price controls and a wage cap. If you look at the WSL last year, the top four and five clubs had a positive goal difference of 166 and the rest were down 166. You can spend as much as you want.
There is a ‘soft’ salary cap in the Women’s Super League (WSL) and Women’s Championship – 40% of revenue can be spent on wages – but that profit includes the parent club, which is a huge advantage for women’s teams supported by the Premier League. .
Parrish’s comment sparked a huge online debate. Some were concerned about the widening gap between the WSL’s top four (Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United) and the rest of the league. Others thought Parrish should have invested more and took umbrage at him for advising female players to save earning potential when they earn far less than their male counterparts.
The Athletic’s women’s football editor Chloe Morgan – Crystal Palace goalkeeper between 2020-2022 – and women’s football writer Katie Hyatt join The Athletic. Full Time Europe: The Women’s Football Show, Edited by Sophie Penny to discuss Parish’s comments in more detail. What will his proposal mean for the future of the women’s game?
Chloe Morgan: Much of this debate was sparked by one of our writers, Jessie Parker-Humphreys, who tweeted about Steve Parrish’s comments.
Crystal Palace’s men’s team’s monthly wage bill is enough to break the annual wage bills of top WSL teams.
— JPH (@jessyjph) October 19, 2023
For any (former) player to say we should limit the amount players can earn is strange. I have always been an advocate for increasing wages, safety and standards. Karen Carney’s (Raise the Bar) report puts average WSL salaries at £25,000 to £27,000 a year, with women’s championship salaries up to £4,000 a year. Some male players are on £500,000 a week plus goal bonuses and sponsorships.
The general principle surrounding the upper end salary cap is to maintain the competitiveness of the WSL and WC. You can’t view any league in isolation because they are an ecosystem. If everything below the WSL collapses, you’re in a very dangerous situation. The salary cap is expected to prevent clubs with big Premier League backing – such as Arsenal, Chelsea, City and United – from paying at the top level. So we’re not seeing a situation where Arsenal can’t afford to get in those big international players or have access to those great facilities at all.
Sophie Penny: Katie, isn’t it weird that it’s Steve Parish saying this? Crystal Palace are placed fourth in the WC. Is it an excuse not to spend more money on the women’s team?
Katie Hewett: We’re at a point where even the better-funded women’s teams are running on the kind of budgets that are a common mistake for many Premier League clubs. We say all this as we have seen our women’s clubs struggling to compete in the Champions League.
We can all name the middle or lower WSL clubs that have a large fan base and are affiliated with men’s teams. In the men’s game, you see clubs breaking transfer records and paying huge salaries that their women’s teams don’t compete with. In that context, those women’s groups are underfunded. Editing that doesn’t significantly affect their overall budget.
Long term, they finish in a league that reflects the Premier League’s power imbalance. If you ask the likes of Spurs, West Ham and Liverpool to spend more money, City and Chelsea are going to rise again. Where would women’s clubs go without asking them to reach a level of profitability and sustainability?
They feel it is difficult to ask them to do this because the only reason they are in this position in the first place – relying on their ‘parent’ men’s clubs – is because of all the systemic problems and restrictions. To hinder their progress in the past.
Is this the last year of the WSL and Championship as we know it?
Especially in this era of demand growth, it’s hard to say, ‘We’re going to further limit your growth, profitability and sustainability.’ That goal, and no matter how sincere that goal, is another setback after decades of underfunding.
Morgan: One of the things that definitely needs to be looked at – and one of the recommendations in the ‘Rising the Bar’ report is the introduction of a minimum wage cap.
Especially needed for clubs in London and the WCC. They don’t want to see a situation where they don’t make enough money to go and get another job. If they stop training and then go and do barre shifts, that probably doesn’t make them good athletes.
Ella Powell, from Bristol, said she had to go to work at Costa shortly after her shift. When you look at the WC, 80 to 90 percent of the clubs now offer full-time services, but what they are being paid by the WC is not financially stable for many players. SSome of the players have children and families to support.
It’s trying to balance how sustainable it is for certain clubs. Looking at the make-up of clubs in the WC you have the London City Lions, a fully independent club that split from Millwell a few years ago.
Lewes FC is an independent club and is fully owned by supporters (you can buy shares in Lewes). Crystal Palace are backed by a big Premier League outfit. City of Birmingham They are backed by a big boys club but not to the extent that United and City do. You have to see what these clubs are capable of. If we raise the minimum wage to £30,000-£35,000, that’s an extra £10,000-£15,000 for each of the 22-25 players you get on your books. That ends up being in the hundreds of thousands (per club total).
These clubs already exist. They are trying to stretch what little money they have every year. You have to look at the bottom line to make sure the leagues and clubs are all sustainable so you don’t end up in a situation like Reading. They went overtime from the WSL to the WC. Then you have players worrying about their livelihood.
Only two years ago, we saw Coventry almost collapse at Christmas. Players were worried about their jobs as they did not have the support of the men’s team. Although it will take a lot of time – you should really focus on learning from men’s mistakes and creating a financially sustainable model for women’s groups to operate independently.
Penny: How independent should[women’s clubs]be from the Premier League or men’s clubs? Are they meant to be sustainable?
Hwat: The question of sustainability depends on who is asking it. It was very easy for people to go: ‘How much money does the women’s game make?’ Painting the side of women as a burden, he said: ‘You will never profit. There is no point in running a women’s club because they rely on men’s clubs. Nobody cares. You have no fans.
This attitude has limited the women’s game. If we are honest, many sponsors look at the women’s game and refuse to invest because of that. The women’s game was not allowed to develop even in the past. To do this he needs support from the men’s clubs because of what he has done before.
The difficulty with sustainability is that many men’s clubs are not sustainable. That was true before the outbreak. In the year As of September 2019, Football Values data shows that 51 of the 72 EFL clubs reported making a net loss in 2018. This year’s Premier League 2021/22 season report has been available since March.: Arsenal make £45m loss – fourth year in a row without a profit. United posted a net loss of £115.5m.
Many groups of men at different levels of the pyramid are bankrolled and accepted by the rich owners, to the point where fans get angry when they return the money they already deposited or ask for a share of the profits: ‘He’s taking money out of the club.
But when the women’s game is bankrolled in the same way, there’s a sense of ‘you’re not invincible’. You depend on the men’s game because no one wants to see it’ is almost a different marking standard for similar situations.
We’ve got a very different ecosystem in the women’s game. Any discussion we have around sustainability must reflect the diversity of the women’s football pyramid.
Penny: Is there anything we can learn from other leagues like the NWSL in the US?
Hwat: NWSL clubs are independent franchises. The difference in football here is that we have such a history with the men’s pyramid where there are families and generations of ticket holders. We had typically male role models introducing the next generation – again, typically men – in their families to their match day rituals, their songs, their districts.
How much do we want to take away from the men’s game? We’d be fools not to take that ready-made fan. One of the best parts of that is that fans in the men’s game have high expectations of off-field standards. United fans in particular have been vocal on Twitter when they feel their club and players are not being properly supported. They’re bringing standards from the men’s game: ‘We can sell this. We can do this.’
The other side of that is the negative aspects of the men’s game. It is fundamental that we do that, especially if we are talking about sustainability, if we have clubs and families that have a ready history and can help their fans. The other side of that is to make sure that clubs with smaller men’s clubs like London City Lions or Lewes still have a place to show their identity.
Maybe if you’re from a town or city that doesn’t have a big women’s team, it might be to join a nearby WSL club or even join a WSL club with a lot of Lions. , or whose style you like. With a small pool of top-tier teams, there are a variety of ways to recruit fans. You need to prepare a place for that.
You can listen to The Athletic’s dedicated weekly women’s soccer podcast, Full Time Europe, wherever you find podcasts for free.
Hodgson’s criticism of Castle’s boys was shrill, but his real fault lies elsewhere.
(Top photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images)