Republic of Ireland men’s internationals have reduced their match fees from €2,500 to an undisclosed sum to secure equal pay with their female counterparts.
Described by the Football Association of Ireland as a "historic three-way agreement," the gender pay gap was removed following several months of talks between FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill and Ciarán Medlar of tax consultants BDO, who advises both male and female Irish players, alongside team captains Katie McCabe and Séamus Coleman.
The new match fee comes into immediate effect when Ireland play Portugal on Wednesday at Estádio Algarve with the women to receive an increase on the previous €500 payment when they open their World Cup qualifying campaign against away to Georgia on September 17th.
“I think it is a day that will go down in the history books,” said McCabe, the Arsenal winger, who paid tribute to former female Irish players, particularly the squad that held a press conference at Liberty Hall four years ago to highlight some atrocious treatment by the FAI, including players being forced to change out of official tracksuits in airport toilets.
“We can’t forget that massive day back in 2017 as well for those players who stood up and fought for women’s football and fought for equality.
“They are the real heroes in this story, they took a stand and they passed on the baton to the current generation.
“Séamus Coleman and his team-mates in the men’s squad also deserve credit for being brave enough to support us in such a progressive way on this issue. It is really appreciated.
“More importantly,” McCabe added, “just equal opportunity. It really sends out the message that ‘we are one’ and it is a great time because both teams are embarking on a big qualifying phase.
“I think it shows young girls that we can play too and we will have equal opportunity no matter what field it is.”
Hill, speaking from the Irish team hotel in Portugal, stated: “Séamus used the phrase ‘we should be doing this because it is the right thing to do’. I completely agree with him. It is the right thing for any modern inclusive sports organisation to do.
“I hope this is another good example of us making the right decision for everyone involved.”
Coleman emphasised McCabe’s influence on the negotiations.
“Katie has done a lot of work, fair play to her, she seems like a real leader of that team,” said the Everton skipper. “It is important for the people of the country to see that togetherness. The senior players have had conversations about it and we are all delighted.
“I hope there is a lot more happiness [in the women’s squad] and they don’t feel they are a step behind the men when that should not be the case.”
The agreement allows the FAI to avoid accusations of inequality as Hill rolls out a strategic plan that has Ireland qualifying for every other major tournament.
However, bonus payments to male and female Irish players for reaching future World Cups and European Championships will not be controlled by the FAI with Hill noting last month that this is “dependent on obviously the decisions of both Uefa and Fifa as to how much they are going to pay for those bonuses”.
Fifa are not expected to align prizemoney for the men’s and women’s World Cups, which has a current difference of €115 million.
“It is also another step forward in our key strategic goal to grow the women’s game in Ireland in a sustainable and systematic way,” Hill continued. “For some months now, I have been working with Katie, Séamus and Ciarán on this agreement.
“Katie and her team-mates are role models to all the young girls playing football in Ireland whilst the actions of Séamus and his fellow players in our senior men’s squad to make this equal pay proposition possible should not be underestimated.”
The FAI announcement comes one year after the English FA and Brazilian Football Federation began paying the same appearance fee, which is hardly a great sacrifice for male players who command millions of euros in club salaries.
The US women’s soccer team are currently appealing a court ruling in California that they had been paid more on a “cumulative and an average per-game basis” than the men. They are seeking an equal pay settlement.
McCabe’s Ireland can now prepare for the World Cup 2023 qualifiers on a high despite losing their last seven games. Vera Pauw, the team’s Dutch manager since 2019, constantly states there is a need for home-based players to train with men on a weekly basis.
“Vera Pauw’s request for players in the current women’s senior squad to train with boys is on a player-by-player case, as she has indicated, and must only happen with the approval of the players’ respective clubs,” said the FAI in response to Pauw’s repetitive demand. “This is something that Vera has been discussing with specific players and their club managers to facilitate where possible.”
Meanwhile, Bohemians goalkeeper James Talbot has replaced Bournemouth’s Mark Travers, who is ill, in the Ireland squad despite West Ham’s Darren Randolph, the 50-cap veteran, stating on social media last week that he was fit and available for selection.