Why Kiera Walsh’s world-record transfer should never be compared to Neymar’s
Why Kiera Walsh’s world-record transfer should never be compared to Neymar’s: Keira Walsh joined Barcelona from Manchester City earlier this month for a rumored world-record cost of £350,000 ($400,000).
The decision was made after England won their first major trophy on home soil at the European Championships.
Although this trade will go down in history, many fans may wonder why the record fee is significantly smaller than in the men’s game. To what extent should a women’s soccer team base its success on transfer fees?
Walsh, an English midfielder, was instrumental to the Three Lions’ triumph at the European Championship this summer.
The tournament’s attendance, television ratings, and social media impressions all set new highs, demonstrating the sport’s continued popularity among women.
Signing with Barcelona only increased interest in the sport, and many are curious about the long-term effects of a high-profile transfer like Walsh’s.
The city agreed to the deal with the Spanish club on September 7, one day before the transfer deadline, for a fee projected to grow to roughly £350,000, surpassing the fee — more than £250,000 ($286,000) — that Chelsea spent to get Pernille Harder from Wolfsburg in 2020.
Neymar’s 2017 transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain set a new men’s record transfer value of £198 million ($263m). The distance is large, yet Walsh’s action still represents progress.
City manager Gareth Taylor, who has experienced a substantial change in his team due to departures and retirements this summer, called Walsh’s decision a “jolt” in an interview before the Women’s Super League (WSL) season.
“When we found out that Keira wanted to go and had asked to leave, we had approximately a week,” Taylor recalled.
“Keira served us for eight years, grew immensely during that time, and was ready to take on this responsibility. We must be doing something well at the club since the record fee we got for her is proof of that.”
Why is the gap so wide when it comes to transfer fees?
The women’s game has expanded and improved dramatically during the past decade. Although the sport has grown thanks to numerous factors, including advertising, sponsorship, investment, media rights deals, and ticket sales, the gender gap in earnings between the men’s and women’s games persists.
A lot of women’s football development in England and elsewhere can be traced back to the game’s historical roots.
The Football Association (FA) instituted a prohibition on teams permitting women to play at their grounds a little over a century ago, preventing the formation of any sort of women’s league or framework within which players might come together and develop.
After a momentous game in 1920 between Dick, Kerr Ladies FC and St. Helens, in which the former won 4-0 in front of 53,000 fans at Goodison Park, the decision was made to give women’s football a chance to succeed. Women’s football had been gaining momentum, but the prohibition put a stop to that for nearly half a century.
It’s worth noting that male football has also experienced meteoric growth over the past three decades.
However, the men’s game was already in a strong position to succeed many years ago due to its time to establish itself. In contrast, female football is just beginning to experience similar meteoric growth.
While Alan Shearer signed with his hometown team Newcastle United for a then-record £15 million, Italian Giuseppe Savoldi became the first male player to sign for £1 million when he signed with Napoli in 1975.
While we may not see a fee rise to that level again soon, men’s players routinely bring in £100m in transfer fees, with Neymar’s 2017 move to PSG setting the current record at £198m.
The game’s growth and increasing financial stability can be attributed to broadcasting revenue, sponsorship partnerships, and retail sales.
Despite this, the women’s game is becoming increasingly lucrative, and the first female player to sign a deal worth over £1 million seems certain.
With growing investment from clubs and broadcasters in the game, the record amount will continue to be smashed. In just two years, the fee has climbed to over £350,000.
By the numbers
Despite a slow start, women’s football is expanding in more ways than one. In 2020, the same year Chelsea bought Harder, transfer spending in women’s football topped $1m (£880,000), according to FIFA. However, only 36 moves that year featured a price.
In 2021, FIFA reported an exponential increase in spending, with a total of $2.1m (£1.86m) spent on 1,304 foreign transfers, of which just 58 were for a fee.
The vast majority (87.3%) of foreign moves involved players who were no longer under contract with their previous club.
Another report from FIFA in January 2022 revealed that women’s football transfers had hit a new record for the month of $487,800 (£430,450), an increase of 57.3% from the same window in 2021.
While Spanish clubs made more than twice as many transactions during the January window. The WSL was responsible for more than half of the total money spent on international players at $254,200 on 20 international transfers, nearly double the amount spent in Spain (46.)
Over the same time period, investment in men’s football surpassed $1.03 billion (£91m).
There is mounting proof that women’s football generates a growing share of the sport’s overall revenue in England and worldwide.
The signing of Walsh, who is only 25 years old, will almost quadruple the total amount paid worldwide in 2022. Even though monetary expansion is something to be pleased with and celebrate, there are other aspects of expansion to think about.
Is money the only mark of success?
Another debate that arises from the nature of these transfers is whether or not large transfer fees are the essential metric of success when it comes to expanding women’s football. Do world-record transfers really matter when average WSL players make less than £50,000 annually?
International women’s football competitions heavily dominate the schedule.
So far in 2022, the U.S. women’s national team has played 29 international matches, while the men’s team has played only 10. Paying female players equally at the international level not only conveys a statement that they are valued equally by their national federation but also helps to ensure that they are paid fairly at all levels of competition.
In this situation, the USWNT successfully negotiated a new CBA with the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) that guarantees equitable remuneration for all players.
This new deal, which went into effect in June, mandates a 50/50 split of commercial revenue and World Cup bonuses for both men and women players.
Contracts for players are also evolving, a sign of the sport’s maturation. Although some female players may like the freedom that short-term contracts provide, the trend toward longer-term contracts indicates an increased desire by clubs to invest in the sport.
Walsh’s three-year deal with the Spanish giants includes a world-record sum and will serve as a template for future deals of this nature.
Another positive development in recent years has been the inclusion of benefits and player protection clauses in contracts for women’s teams.
FA and PFA
In January, women’s football players in England will now be guaranteed maternity and long-term sickness and injury protection according to an agreement reached between the Football Association (FA) and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA).
The first Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the United States included provisions for a minimum wage and paid parental leave for players in February 2022.
In February of 2020, top-flight Spanish female players reached a new collective salary deal that included a guarantee of maternity leave and other benefits.
For the women’s game, these deals are huge, but we can’t stop here.
While some clubs have made strides to improve their women’s teams’ training facilities, the vast majority still leave much to be desired. While Kansas City, home to the NWSL’s KC Current, erected a $19 million training facility for their squad, Brighton revealed a new £8.5 million one.
The transfer fee for Walsh is something to be proud of and is crucial for the team’s success in the game, but it is not the most important item.
Expanding women’s football’s financial resources is essential, but it must be demonstrated in transfer fees, collective bargaining agreements, benefits, and training facilities.
Consistent marketing, sponsorship investment, broadcast rights deals, and ticket sales will lead to further financial development in the years after Walsh’s transfer, as seen by the Women’s Euros 2022.
Women’s football is at the same level as men’s, so let’s quit comparing the two and instead focus on praising the accomplishments of women in the sport.