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Women's Football United States want £50m in damages from US Soccer Federation

PLAYERS on the US women’s national team are seeking more than $66 million (£50m) in damages as part of their gender-discrimination lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation (USSF).

The damages claim was included in a slew of papers filed on Thursday night in a US District Court in Los Angeles ahead of a trial scheduled to start on May 5.

Among the documents filed were the separate collective-bargaining agreements of the US men’s and women’s teams, which had not previously been made public.

Players on the women’s national team sued the federation last March alleging institutionalised gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation between the men’s and women’s teams.

Each side in the class-action lawsuit asked for a summary judgment in their favour. The estimate of damages, including interest, was provided by Finnie Bevin Cook, an economist from Deiter Consulting Group, which was retained by the suing players.

The collective-bargaining agreements (CBAs) showed a disparity in bonuses but also highlighted the different pay structures between the two teams.

“Women’s national-team players are paid differently because they specifically asked for and negotiated a completely different contract than the men’s national team, despite being offered, and rejecting, a similar pay-to-play agreement during the past negotiations,” US Soccer said in a statement.

“Their preference was a contract that provides significant additional benefits that the men’s national team does not have, including guaranteed annual salaries, medical and dental insurance, paid child-care assistance, paid pregnancy and parental leave, severance benefits, salary continuation during periods of injury, access to a retirement plan, multiple bonuses and more.”

Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the players, disputed the federation’s assertions.

“In the most recent CBA negotiation, USSF repeatedly said that equal pay was not an option regardless of pay structure,” Levinson said in a statement.

“USSF proposed a ‘pay-to-play structure’ with less pay across the board. In every instance for a friendly or competitive match, the women players were offered less pay that their male counterparts. This is the very definition of gender discrimination, and of course the players rejected it.”

The lawsuit has drawn worldwide attention. When the US won the World Cup final last summer in France, fans in the crowd chanted “Equal Pay! Equal Pay!”

Earlier this month, the players’ union for the men’s national team urged the federation to sharply increase pay for the women’s team, while also accusing the governing body of making low-ball offers in current contract negotiations with the men’s team.

A US man who was on the roster for all 16 qualifiers during the failed effort to reach the 2018 World Cup earned £137,675 in payments from the US Soccer Federation.

An American woman received £40,258 for being on the roster for the five World Cup qualifiers last year plus £113,20 for her time at the World Cup, including a £28,755 roster bonus and £84,398 for winning the title in France.

The USSF keeps 16-21 women’s players under contract in each year of the current labour deal, which runs through to 2021, and pays each a £76,727 salary. The federation also pays a minimum 22 players assigned to a club in the National Women’s Soccer League, with each receiving £55,610 to £59,447 this year.

Women receive 75 per cent of their salary on maternity leave for up to one year, and a player has the longer of three months or two training camps to return to full fitness. A player can receive 75 per cent of salary for up to three months when adopting a child and a £38 daily stipend for child-care during training and play. The USSF also pays for health, dental and vision insurance for the women.

When the men last qualified for the World Cup in 2014, their player pool got a £1.5m payment, and each player earned £42,172 for making the roster and £4,211 per match. The player pool earned £134,302 per point for the group phase, a total of £537,558 plus £2.8m for reaching the round of 16.

The USSF in its filing pointed out that it received £7m from FIFA for the men reaching the second round of the 2014 World Cup, but £1.5m for the women winning in 2015 and £3m for their victory in 2019.

There is parity in per diems: the women get £47.61 daily while in the US and £57.14 internationally, the same as the men received under terms of their expired deal that covered 2015-18. And men and women both receive £1.14 per paid attendance for home matches controlled by the USSF.

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