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.

WC Countdown: Group F – Sweden

Onto the last team in the last group, which is Sweden! This is where I’m from so please excuse any potential bias. All jokes aside, this preview will wrap up my WWC Wednesdays, which I’ve taken so much pleasure in doing, and we’ll now be looking forward to an amazing month of football in France!

Sweden is a consistent contender at the World Cup, and haven’t missed a single tournament so far. They’ve always done quite well, but haven’t been very consistent. They’ve ended up with two bronze, one at the inaugural edition in China in 1991, as well as in Germany in 2011 and they’ve also hosted it once, in 1995. They struggled for good results at the last World Cup and the Euros 2017 wasn’t their year either, but they did grab a silver medal at the Olympics 2016, having beaten both the USA and Brazil on their way to the final against Germany.

Their qualification route to the World Cup was quite straightforward, and they won all of their matches except for a loss against Ukraine, but they beat Hungary, Croatia and Denmark to qualify for the tournament.

The Swedish team tends to play and exist in a very collective aura, meaning that they do not really have any players that stand out from the crowd as extraordinary, but their strength rather lies in the fact that they play well together, especially since the very unfortunate retirement of Lotta Schelin, one of the most outstanding forwards in Sweden but also in the rest of Europe. But even so, there are some cogs in the team worth mentioning. Stina Blackstenius is the young and energetic forward, with three goals in seven appearances during the qualifying, who was the top scorer in the U-19 World Cup four years ago and the only goalscorer in that quarterfinal victory against the US who also got a goal against Germany in the final. Other attacking players to keep an eye out for are Olivia Schough, Sofia Jacobsson, 21-year-old Julia Zigiotti-Olme and of course – Kosovare Asllani. Kosse, as she’s called, is the creative force that Sweden can rely on in the midfield, and she’s going to be an important source of goals.

Sweden women's national football team
Celebrating after beating Brazil at the Olympics, source

They also have a very strong defence, led by 34-year-old Nilla Fischer who still manages to perform on a consistently high level. Sweden only conceded twice in their qualifying and for her club, VFL Wolfsburg, she helped keep 15 clean sheets in the past season. Another rock in the Swedish defence is goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. The 36-year-old is going to her fifth World Cup as the starting goalkeeper and it is thanks to her steady composure that Sweden can keep up their high-pressure playing style. She’s a good decision maker and her experience weighs very heavy here.

Peter Gerhardsson is the coach of the team since 2017 when he took over for Pia Sundhage. A former player himself, he represented several Swedish clubs playing as an attacker, before going into the role as a coach. He has previously managed several clubs, most notably BK Häcken, a male team in the top flight of Swedish football, for seven years before taking the job for the women’s national team. Gerhardsson seems to favour his team to play a 3-4-2-1, inviting that pressing style Sweden likes to play.

The Swedish squad played a few friendlies last autumn, notably beating England and Norway, but lost 0-1 to Italy. They also took part in the Algarve Cup in March, beating Switzerland but losing to Portugal and Canada which saw them end up in fourth place in the tournament. Their biggest clash in the group stages is without a doubt going to be against the US. The two teams have met on five occasions, which makes this game the most recurring one in the WC history, and Sweden won their last meeting as the two of them met in the quarterfinals of the Olympics in 2016. The Swedes beat them and Hope Solo went on a rant calling the team ‘cowards’.

That’s a wrap on the last team in the last group, and now all we have to do is wait for the whole thing to kick off! You can never count Sweden out, but undoubtedly a lot depends on what result they can get from their meeting with the Americans. Do you think the Swedes have what it takes? Let us know in the comment section!