Keira Walsh signed for Barcelona from Manchester City earlier this month for a widely reported £350,000 ($400,000) world record fee. The move comes on the back of a European Championship win, England lifting their first major trophy on home soil. The exchange is undoubtedly an important moment for the game, but why is the registration fee so much lower than the men’s game? And is focusing on transfer fees the most important indicator of success in the women’s game?
At the Euros this summer, midfielder Walsh was a linchpin in England’s success. And the tournament, which broke records for attendance, viewers and records on social media, proved that the women’s game has grown to new levels and is attracting new fans. Walsh drew further attention to the game once he signed for Barcelona. A transfer like this has left many wondering what effect it will have on the game.
After several failed bids to sign Walsh from Barcelona, City agreed a deal with the Spanish club on September 7, a day before the transfer deadline, for a fee expected to rise to around £350,000 — more than £250,000 ($286,000) — from Wolfsburg in Bern in 2020. Chelsea paid to sign Harder. By comparison, the record fee for a men’s player was £198 million ($263 million), when Neymar signed for Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona in 2017. Still, despite the wide gap, Walsh’s move is another step forward.
Speaking ahead of the start of the Women’s Super League (WSL) season, City manager Gareth Taylor, who has seen significant turnover in his squad through departures and retirements this summer, said Walsh’s move was a “shock”.
“It left us with a week when we realized Keira wanted out and asked to go,” Taylor said. “Keira had given us eight years of service and had grown really well and wanted to take on the challenge. We got a registration fee for her which shows we are doing something here at the club.”
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Why is the gap wide when it comes to transfer fees?
Especially in the last decade, there has been rapid progress and growth in women’s sports. From marketing campaigns to sponsorship and investment, from television rights deals to ticket sales, there are many factors that contribute to the growth of sport, but the financial disparity between women’s and men’s sports is still markedly different.
History plays an important role in how women’s sport has progressed in England and around the world. A little over 100 years ago, the Football Association (FA) banned clubs from allowing women to play on their grounds, ensuring that there would be no women’s league or body where players could come together and develop. The result came not long after a historic game in 1920, when Dick, Kerr Ladies FC beat St Helens 4-0 in front of 53,000 fans at Goodison Park, proving that women’s football was at its best a century earlier. The ban halted much of the success of women’s soccer, and lasted nearly 50 years.
It’s important to note that men’s soccer has also grown tremendously in the last 30 years, but the time they’ve had to build the sport has seen the men’s game succeed decades ago, while women’s soccer has only begun to see it. Now development.
In 1975, Italian Giuseppe Savolti became the first male £1m footballer to sign for Napoli, and 20 years later, Alan Shearer signed for his boyhood club Newcastle United for a record £15m. Neymar holds the current transfer record of £198m for his 2017 move to PSG, and while we may not see fees rise to that peak again anytime soon, men’s players now routinely bring in £100m in transfer fees. Broadcast revenue, endorsement deals and merchandise sales have all contributed to the sport’s growth and increased funding.
All this being said, the women’s game is seeing financial growth and it will only be a matter of time until we see the first female player signing for £1m. It has only taken two years for fees to rise to £350,000, and with more investment from clubs and broadcasters, that record will continue to be broken.
Julian Lawrence reacts to Keira Walsh joining Barcelona for a world record fee.
Despite the historic stunt in growth, women’s soccer is growing in more ways than one. According to FIFA, 2020 marked the first time women’s football transfer spending exceeded $1m (£880,000) — the same year Harder was signed by Chelsea — however, only 36 deals in that year included the fee.
FIFA’s report for 2021 showed exponential growth as total spending rose to $2.1m (£1.86m), with 1,304 international transfers made, only 58 of which were fees. Most of the moves came with out-of-contract players, accounting for 87.3% of international transfers.
In January 2022, FIFA released another report showing that women’s football transfers reached a new record of January 487,800 (£430,450) — 57.3% more than the same window in 2021. In the January window, the WSL will be responsible for more than half. $254,200 in spending on 20 international transfers — nearly double the amount spent in Spain, despite Spanish clubs making twice as many transfers (46.) In comparison, men’s soccer spending was $1.03 billion over the same period. (£91m).
Evidence points to steady and substantial financial growth in women’s sport in the UK and globally. Barcelona’s signing of 25-year-old Walsh in 2022 will almost double the world-class sum already spent. But while financial growth is important and something to be celebrated, other factors of growth must also be considered.
Is money the only sign of success?
The nature of these transfers raises another question: big transfer fees are always a talking point, but are they the most important measure of success when it comes to the development of women’s football? While most players are Earning on average under £50,000 a year in the WSLAre world record transfers the most important thing?
The women’s game takes up most of the international football calendar. In 2022 alone, the US Women’s National Team has already played 29 international matches, while their male counterparts have only played 10. Internationally equal pay not only helps give women the pay they deserve, it sends a message. The players seem to be on equal footing from the point of view of the national federation.
In this case, the USWNT was able to negotiate a historic new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the US Soccer Federation (USSF), which included equal pay. The new deal, which came into effect in June, will see World Cup bonuses split equally, women and men receive the same pregame bonuses and commercial revenue and other equal benefits.
Another important sign of the game’s development is the gradual changes made to player contracts. The vast majority of transfers in the women’s game are short-term, one-year deals, which give players little job security, and while some players enjoy flexibility, the move towards longer-term deals means clubs are more willing to invest. In the game. In addition to the world record fee, Walsh’s deal with the Spanish giants is a three-year deal and could set a precedent for similar moves in the future.
Access to player protections in benefits and contracts has historically been rare in the women’s game, but this has been another welcome change in the past two years. In January, the FA and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) agreed to make changes to contracts in women’s football in England, which cover maternity and long-term sickness and injury cover for players. In the United States, the first CBA was adopted by the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in February 2022, offering players a guaranteed minimum wage and parental leave. Spain’s top female players agreed to a new collective pay deal in February 2020, guaranteeing maternity leave among other benefits.
These deals are an undeniably important move for the women’s game, but the growth and development of those deals doesn’t stop there. Some clubs have begun to improve the quality of their training grounds and facilities for women’s teams, but most training grounds leave much to be desired. Recently, Brighton announced a new £8.5m training facility, while across the pond Kansas City opened a dedicated £15.5m ($19m) training facility for their NWSL team KC Current.
Walsh’s transfer fee is something to celebrate and is important for the game, but it is not the most important. The financial growth of women’s football is very important, but that growth must be shown in CBAs, available benefits and training facilities, not just transfer fees.
Walsh’s transfer will be followed by a number of key moments, and with continued marketing, sponsorship investment, TV rights deals and ticket sales, the financial boom is clear: Women’s Euro 2022 has proved that. Women’s football is just as good as men’s, but it’s time to stop comparing the two; Instead, let’s focus on celebrating women’s football and all the success that comes with it.