Landmark pay deal gives Matildas the 'confidence to be on top of the world'

A new pay deal for Australia's national women's football team is being widely hailed as a landmark moment in women's sport.

On Wednesday, Football Federation Australia is expected to announce the Matildas will be paid the same as their male counterparts, the Socceroos.

Under the arrangement, the Matildas and the Socceroos will also reportedly share commercial revenue and prize money evenly.

Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams - who has 81 caps for the national side - was cautious about the yet to be announced deal but said, once confirmed, it will offer hope to countless young girls around the country with dreams of winning a World Cup.

"Our players' association is working really hard," she said.

"It's still in negotiations and they're still in that phase.

"If it does come about and that prospect is put out there, it's exciting to see what opportunities could lie ahead of us."

Lydia Williams.
Source: Getty Images

It's believed the agreement has been agreed in principle and now only requires legal ratification.

Under the agreement, the pool of money for the Matildas and Socceroos would be equal - with all commercial revenue brought in by both sides split evenly.

Former Socceroo Craig Foster said that means it's about so much more than the match fee players receive.

"This is about a whole of game agreement, all of the commercial arrangements, all of the sponsorships and indeed performance conditions, so it's very much a holistic approach,” Foster said.

“This is the result of a long term commitment strategy and advocacy by the players themselves through the PFA, who've done a marvellous job."

Craig Foster at FIFA headquarters.
Source: Getty Images

Foster said the new arrangement should mean the Matildas are given the same flight entitlements, medical resources and investment in camps as the Socceroos.

"It was only a few years ago that the PFA and Matildas went on strike for minimum conditions and since that time the PFA has continued to push the issue of gender equality and well done to them," he said.

“Of course, there's a pending case on FIFA prize money by the PFA on behalf of the Matildas to equalise prize money at FIFA World Cups for female and male.

"That also has potential to deliver gender equality at international level.

“And now, I understand, in coming days that an agreement will be inked for equality on the domestic scene as well."

It's been a slow march to equal pay at the elite level.

The Matildas were formed back in 1978 but in those early years were forced to pay their own way to play the game they loved.

At one stage, the national women’s team even posed nude in a controversial calendar to raise funds and awareness.

A number of Matildas players posed naked for calendar in 1999.
Source: AFP

Former Matildas Vice-Captain Joey Peters recalls getting paid $40 a week to play.

"It's a wonderful day because back when I played I remember getting my first cheque for $166 for the month from Olympic funding and I was excited about that,” Peters said.

“So it's shown not just an improvement in the figure of money but what it actually means to society, to young kids now that we're saying females and males are valued the same in whatever we do."

Peters says the landmark deal has been built on the work of generations of Australian footballers.

Lucy Zelic, Sal Shipard and Joey Peters after a recent Matildas' win.
Source: SBS

"I think each generation has played their part from the early ones that had to pay to play and then for us to move through to getting funding and just doing whatever we had to do to try and promote what we were doing, that we were passionate about our game."

It's not the first equal pay deal for a women's national team.  

Norway has paid its women's team the same as the men's since 2017.

But Peters says the plan to split revenue would be a genuine leap forward.

"So any support now to give these players confidence that they can be on top of the world and we're behind them hopefully that gives them a kick along for sure,” she said.

Published 5 November 2019 at 4:14pm, updated 5 November 2019 at 7:48pm
By Darren Mara