The wage gap in the sports world: justified or not?

Radio 1
Erasmus School of Economics

There is still a huge pay gap between men and women in the sports world. Especially in football, the differences are huge and people increasingly wonder why. Thomas Peeters, Sports Economist at Erasmus School of Economics, explains where these huge differences come from in an interview with Radio 1. 

Unthinkable times

According to Peeters, the wage gap has mainly arisen because male sportsmen have been earning more and more in recent decades, while this has not happened for women. ‘In the 1970s, Manchester United players still travelled to matches by train together with fans. That is of course unthinkable nowadays', says Peeters. He explains that the income of clubs in men's sports has risen so enormously in recent years, while the costs have remained relatively low, that the wages of male athletes have been driven up.

High wages: justified or not?

Peeters acknowledges that there are very high wages in the sports world nowadays, but he personally finds it difficult to answer the question whether it is justified or not. ‘It is the sportsmen and women who ultimately produce the product that so many people enjoy. If a lot of money is made from that, isn't it up to them to make that money?’ According to Thomas, it would be better to ask ourselves why we pay so much for football matches and whether we should continue to support clubs in this way.

Fighting for equality

According to Peeters, there is certainly still commercial potential in women's sport. ‘You also see that in sports where there have been investments in women's sports in the past, such as tennis, women can actually make more money than people often think.’ Tennis also has two important advantages, Peeters explains. Firstly, it is an individual sport in which one can make someone big and popular. You sometimes need this to make a sport popular. The second is that historically there have been some figures in tennis who really fought for equality. You can see this happening more and more in football now.

Professor

Thomas Peeters, Sports Economist

More information

The full item from Radio 1, 5 October 2021, can be found here (in Dutch). 

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