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Ombudsman for Equality: Equivalent national team compensations would promote equality (issued 14 May, 2019)

Ombudsman for Equality: Equivalent national team compensations would promote equality (issued 14 May, 2019)

The Ombudsman for Equality has assessed whether the Football Association of Finland’s practice concerning match-specific national team compensations complies with the Equality Act. The Football Association of Finland (FAF) has paid players on the men’s A national team higher match-specific national team compensations than those paid to players on the women’s A national team. The Ombudsman for Equality undertook to investigate this matter on the basis of statements requested from FAF and the captains of the women's and men’s A national teams.

Financial result affects different levels of national team compensations

The Ombudsman for Equality oversees compliance with the Equality Act. The purpose of the Equality Act is to prevent discrimination based on gender and to promote equality between women and men. When examining possible discrimination resulting from different levels of match-specific compensation for female and male players in terms of the Equality Act, the assessment must focus on determining the purpose of paying match-specific national team compensations and whether female and male players are in the same or a comparable position in relation to this purpose.

According to the statements provided by FAF, the payment of match-specific national team compensations is justified because

1) it encourages players when they participate in national team activities and

2) it rewards players for producing a good financial result.

Insofar as match-specific national team compensations encourage players to win matches when representing their country at the national team level, players in the men’s and women’s A national team are in a comparable position in the view of the Ombudsman for Equality. In this respect, they should be treated in the same way.

However, according to the statements received from FAF, the purpose of paying match-specific national team compensations was not only to reward players for participation in national team-level games but also to reward them for producing a good financial result. Since one of FAF’s aims is to collect funds for the association's activities, paying compensations on the basis of the financial result can be considered an acceptable starting point.

According to FAF’s statement, the income obtained from men’s A national team activities is used to fund the activities of the men’s A national team activities and, to a great extent, also the activities of other national teams. Furthermore, this income is invested in coaches’ training and player development for boys and girls. The activities of the women’s A national team continue to operate at a loss. The Ombudsman for Equality states that the women’s and men’s national teams have not been in a comparable situation in relation to producing a financial result. In this respect, different levels of match-specific national team compensations cannot be considered to violate the prohibitions on discrimination contained in the Equality Act.

With regard to match-specific compensations, FAF’s reward system must be considered non-transparent because it is difficult to know which part of the compensation is based on the position of a national team player and which part is based on producing a good financial result. This contributes to suspicions of discrimination.

Equivalent national team compensations would send a message about respect for women’s football

FAF has an agreement with players on the men’s A national team regarding a so-called solidarity supplement. According to this agreement, a portion of the bonuses paid to men’s A national team players from possible prize money would be distributed to women’s A national team players. FAF has also supported the most talented female players with, for example, academy stipends that are not available to men and boys and reported that it tries to obtain Finnish Olympic Committee Athlete Grants for as many women’s A national team players as possible.

The Ombudsman for Equality emphasises the importance of active gender equality work in sports and physical activity. The example set by sports federations can influence attitudes and practices related to sport and physical activity at the national level and help ensure equal treatment. FAF’s work to promote gender equality has produced visible results. The number of girls and women involved in the sport has increased as has the number of female leaders and coaches working in football.

— I appreciate the long-term work that FAF has done over the years to promote gender equality. This has raised the level of women's football and increased respect for the sport. Equality in terms of national team compensations would be a clear statement from FAF indicating that women's and men's football are equally valuable and important,” says Ombudsman for Equality Jukka Maarianvaara.

The majority of players in the women’s league are not paid by their clubs, which affects their opportunities to concentrate on football. This also reflects on national team activities. For this reason, it can be assumed that national team compensations have great financial significance for women’s national team players. The development of women’s football and national team success are also important in terms of increasing the participation of girls and women in football, which is likely to have a positive impact on income development in FAF.

16.05.2019