Sweden Next To Demand Equal Pay

“I thought that Sweden already was equal!” Around the globe, Sweden is often portrayed as the sanctuary of equality, it’s a country that everyone looks up to and there is often a feeling of Sweden, due to other countries falling short, is infallible in these areas.

You thought wrong, pal.

Yes, a lot of things are good and really advanced in the countries of the north, like societal structures regarding health care, education etc. As a young girl, there are often options to play and the players in the top women’s league do get paid in Sweden (albeit very little and they still have to have studies or a job on the side.) A historic moment came in 2018 as Norway started paying their male and female national teams the same amount of money.

But I think a lot of people still don’t understand the reason why Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg did not play for Norway at the World Cup this summer.

every generation of players has had their fights to take, regarding everything from training times, material, lost earnings, broadcasting times etc. and now salaries and compensation. Previous generations have achieved amazing results on the pitch but never received any economic compensation worth the name

Just because a lot of things might be better in the Scandinavian countries, or sound better on paper, doesn’t mean that it is actually good, or that there is no room for improvement. Yes, equal pay for the Norwegian national teams is great, and it goes a long way. But the Lyon-striker chose not to play for her country because there are still things that need to be developed, like the way that the athletes are being treated, and she felt like she was being held back in the team. Kosovare Asllani has expressed similar concerns regarding the professionality and level of the Swedish top league Damallsvenskan, and the midfielder should know, having played in both England and France. Euro 2017 silver-medalists Denmark had to go on a strike only months after having placed second at the Euros when the Danish football association failed to present them with an improved collective agreement, as the players amongst other things were asking for – you guessed it – better pay.

The Swedish women’s national team just returned from France where they claimed a bronze medal after a fantastic run in the tournament, and they were greeted by thousands of people in Gothenburg where they were all celebrating together. But once the celebrations died down, questions remained. Just a few days ago, the Swedish football association was reported to the Equality Ombudsman, accused of discriminating against the Swedish women’s national team based on gender, which was followed up two days ago by an open letter, signed by over 50 female players, former national team and elite players, that have been representing Sweden (or been close to) since the ’70s onwards. In the letter, they’re demanding equal treatment and equal pay for the same amount of work, arguing that every generation of players has had their fights to take, “regarding everything from training times, material, lost earnings, broadcasting times etc. and now salaries and compensation. Previous generations have achieved amazing results on the pitch but never received any economic compensation worth the name.” And although these players have hung up their boots, they want to continue the fight for the national team of today.

Sweden women's national team
The Swedish team gives thanks to their unwavering support. Source

They’re defusing the old argument that “the men generate more revenue than women”, simply stating that “if the men’s team now generates so much more off of their games, then that’s good for Swedish football as a whole, right?” According to the letter, the FA are pitting the compensation for the men’s against the women’s, meaning that in order to increase the compensation for the women, they would have to decrease the compensation for the men, ultimately putting the male and female players against each other.

The Swedish FA has refused to go out with any numbers regarding the contracts and the compensation that the men’s and the women’s teams are receiving, shutting down like clams and only referring to the contracts being classified. The answer received from the football governing body on the matter is simply that they perceive their division of compensation to be “fair“.

Although one could argue that the absence of numbers speaks loud and clear for them.

Looking at the way that the two Swedish teams have performed historically, the women’s team has done a lot better than the men’s team. In a mere eight World Cups (for which they’ve qualified to every single one) they’ve gotten four medals, whereas the men’s team has qualified to 12 out of 21 editions, and has three medals to show for it. And let’s not even start on the Euros, where the women have one gold medal, three silver and one bronze, and the men have won … nothing.

This is a similar story to the one of the US women’s national team, who sued their employer US Soccer Federation earlier this year over gender discrimination and then went and won their fourth World Cup (so, you know, a few more gold medals than the Swedish team but, the point is clear), further underlining how superior they are to the US men’s national team who despite this get paid a lot more.

We have yet to see what will happen in each of these cases, but one thing is clear. Equal pay might not solve all of the equality issues in the world, but it would give the patriarchy a kick in the balls.

Quotes are from the open letter published in Expressen, translated by me.