Case Study: The Matildas gain equal pay as the male National Australian Football players.

By Richard WeeBryan Boo and Wai Leng

In November 2019, Football Federation Australia (FFA) announced a ‘same-pay’ deal for men and women national football players. The women national team, better known as ‘The Matildas” will benefit from a scheme where a centralized contract system under FFA will receive equal pay as their male counterparts.

New Zealand and Norway have already embraced this move towards same-pay between the male and female footballers.

This change in Australia inspired the English Women Football players to seek similar changes in England where Jordan Nobbs and Bethany England mentioned that they want the England Football Association to follow the change in Australia and become the next country to address the pay gap for the male and female footballers in England.

The issue of fair pay, or equal pay between the women and men has been a prevailing topic in Sports Law around the world. Women tennis players have championed for equal prize money for Grand Slam tournaments.

Under the Universal Declaration of Player Rights, Article 8 had stated that every player has the right to just and favourable remuneration and conditions of work, including a minimum wage, fair hours of work, rest, leisure, the protection of wages, the certainty of a secure contract, the protection of his or her status as a worker within the employment relationship and equal pay for equal work.

International Olympic Committee officially adopted the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration. This Declaration aspires to promote the ability and opportunity of athletes to practise sport and compete without being subject to discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other immutable status.

In the International Olympic Council’s Charter, Chapter 1 of The Olympic Movement provides that the role of the International Olympic Committee is to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women.

The Women’s National Soccer Team of United State of America have brought an action against United States Soccer Federation (USSF), to seek and demand equal treatment as the male players. The 28 members of the team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in March 2019 in the US District Court in California. A trial is scheduled to be held in May 2020. Plaintiffs are alleging discrimination in terms of inequality in pay, travel, medical treatment, practice and coaching facilities.

In September 2019, Judge R.Gary Klausner of United States District Court in California had granted class action status on the said gender discrimination lawsuit. The working conditions and compensation that sought by the Plaintiffs apply not only to the 28 Plaintiffs but also to any woman who appeared in national team camp or game over the period specified in the suit.

In granting of the class action status, the Judge rejected USSF’s argument where there could not be discrimination under federal law because some female players earned more than the highest-paid male players over the 5 years period. The Judge did not just look at the money that was being paid to the female players but how the money was being made and whether work and conditions were fair and in line with equal pay and rights. The immediate result of the ruling is that it could lead the players and USSF to look for resolution to the lawsuit outside of the court. Such an action augurs well towards the recognition and acknowledgment for equal treatment for all sports person irrespective of gender.

Rules and regulations related to equal rights between the women and men has evolved in the last 100 years or so. It has been a slow evolution but with the cry for diversity and equality in humanity, there is hope to see a quicker embracement of fairness in treatment amongst all athletes.


In Malaysia, there have been movements towards equal treatment in recent times. For example, the government’s Olympic reward scheme treats both able and Paralympic athletes equally where any medal winner at Olympics gain same government rewards. However lack of data and information about the salary in Malaysia’s sports, impedes us from commenting on whether Malaysian women gains the same treatment as the Matildas.

ALB MLA Law Awards 2021 Finalist Badge - Richard Wee Chambers

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