Arsenal Women’s head coach Jonas Eidevall has called on the Football Association to focus its investment lower down the football pyramid if it is to strive for equal pay.
It comes after the U.S. Women’s national team announced that new head coach, Emma Hayes, would be highest-paid coach in women’s football. As part of the collective bargaining agreements committed to by U.S. Soccer in 2022, Hayes’ salary will be aligned with that of USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter
Gareth Southgate said on Thursday that equal pay in men’s and women’s football “is important” but pointed out the economic complexities around the topic. Eidevall took a similar stance to the England manager and called for investment to not just be dedicated to the top level of the game, highlighting the importance of the recent increase in Women’s FA Cup prize money.
“Gareth Southgate struck the balance very well with what we all feel is right in principle, but what might be the problem from a market perspective,” Eidevall said. “I don’t think what is necessary when we start talking about equal pay is that the gap needs to be addressed at the very top of the game.
“We still have a situation — and the PFA has done a really good job highlighting it — of what the reality is for players in the WSL. Me speaking about this being the most competitive season ever (is one thing), we still know there are lot of players in the league — not at Arsenal — who still struggle to get their whole life around playing WSL football. That is a big problem when we’re trying to build the league.
“The FA and whoever has the overall responsibility for the game has a huge part to play in that and where they value their compensations. That shows how they value the game in that sense. We had that discussion about the FA Cup last week. We increased the prize money but the gap is still very big.”
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Earlier this month, the FA announced it would be doubling the total prize fund for the Women’s FA Cup from £3million to £6million.
The new agreement meant that there would be a significant increase in prize money for clubs competing from the third round proper onwards for the 2023-24 season.
Eidevall continued: “It’s good that there was an increase, but is it good enough and where does the FA want that competition to go in the future? Do they see that can be an equal distribution of prize money or do they just see what money we bring in is what we distribute? It’s not an easy question or answer, but I think we’re making a mistake if we’re only looking at the top of the game. There are a lot of things to do in other parts of the game as well.”
Hayes was confirmed as the USWNT head coach on Tuesday and will leave Chelsea at the end of the season to take up the role following 12 years at in charge.
Eidevall said he was not surprised by Hayes’ appointment due to the success she has enjoyed at Chelsea but predicted managers leaving club roles for national team positions will become increasingly rarer as the WSL continues to grow.
“I was asked if I was surprised and I said yes and no,” he added. “No because she’s done a great job at Chelsea and for every manager, there comes a time where something has to end. That’s either by your own decision or the club’s. If you have such a great period of time that you can choose when you go by yourself… I think what she wants to do is go out on a high. That’s special and not for everyone.
“Why would I be surprised? The growth of the WSL, what we have in front of us and how the coming five years can look with new broadcast deals, more teams investing and more games at bigger stadiums. I really think that women’s football is at a shifting point that a decade ago, the national teams were the priority. Five years from now, I don’t think that’s going to be the case.
“Club football is going to play a big part and is where the development is going to be. It’s already where the most high level football is played at the moment. It’s the same in men’s football. In that sense, given the future looks so bright for the WSL, I don’t understand why anyone would leave the WSL but that’s just my take.”
Arsenal return to action on Sunday when they travel to Brighton.
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(Photo: Naomi Baker – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)