TACKLING THE PAY GAP

Former England star Alex Scott discusses her international career, Brighton’s Hope Powell and the future of the women’s game

After calling time on a 15-year international career that included 140 England caps and a pair of Marc Overmars’ boots, Alex Scott is optimistic about the progress of women’s football.

Scott joined Arsenal in 2002 as a winger before converting to her familiar position of right back. She has made 89 apperances for Arsenal across three spells and has also enjoyed seasons with Birmingham City and the United States’ Boston Breakers, all while playing for England throughout. She said: “I signed for Arsenal when I was eight and I remember we would only train twice a week. We had second-hand kits and needed to get boots wherever we could. Vic Akers, who is still the kit man at Arsenal, once gave me Marc Overmars’ football boots which I still have in my loft.”

Scott beamed when asked about the current state of her sport: “The women’s game has changed so much to a point where you can now turn professional and train full-time. It’s brilliant that young girls can now see football as a career path and live out their dreams.” One of Scott’s role models is Hope Powell, the current Brighton & Hove Albion women’s manager. Powell became England’s first full-time head coach in 1998 and the appointment proved pivotal in the development of the sport across the nation. Scott said: “I cannot speak highly enough of Hope Powell. She changed women’s football by knocking on doors and making sure we got funding – she took the game to new levels. Without her, women’s football would definitely not be where it is today.”

After making her England debut as a teenager against the Netherlands in September 2004, Scott quickly became a fan favourite. By the time she announced her retirement 13 years later, she had appeared for her country the second most times of any player in English football history – only behind Fara Williams’ 168.

Scott was sentimental when recalling her time in an England shirt, but admitted that the time was right to retire from the international game. “I never dreamt I would get to represent England as
many times as I did. I fondly remember getting my first cap – every time I played for England it was incredibly special.“It was a very sad moment when I chose to retire but it was the right time for me. I am still right behind the girls and it is surreal to be watching them and not out there and on the pitch.”

England narrowly lost out on the SheBelieves cup when they fell to a 1-0 defeat to the USA at the start of March, but Scott thinks that they have all the credentials to be the best side in the world. “England have so much potential and that’s why Phil Neville has taken the job. It is a great achievement being third in the world, but they need to go one step further and make sure those players have every chance to come back with a winner’s medal. It is something I never got to do.”

“England have the talent to be number one in the world and that

should be their target”

Scott represented England in three World Cups

When you think of pivotal moments in women’s football, Scott’s success with England springs to mind. The East Sussex County town of Lewes certainly does not. However, in July 2017, Lewes FC wrote their name into football’s history books. The local outfit became the first club – in both the semi-professional or professional football ranks – to pay their women’s team the same as their male counterparts. It was a truly inspired move which supports the club’s Equality FC campaign.

According to The Guardian, the best professional female footballers earn about £30,000 a year – peanuts compared to the Premier League average of £50,000 a week. Despite the arguments made about the current inequality of pay, some suggest that it is what the position of the modern game has justified. The average wage in the Women’s Super League (WSL) – the league in which Scott’s Arsenal play – is said to be just short of £20,000 a year for professional players, but only a handful are lucky enough to play full-time. Male League Two players earn an average of almost £50,000 a year.

The WSL currently has a wage cap in place, meaning that clubs can only spend 40% of their turnover on player wages. The regulation does not have a specific, ban on high or low wages, but adds to the competitive balance that might be missing in the men’s game. Women’s football remains a vast distance behind the popularity of the men’s game, but with the recent success of the Lionesses and the WSL, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the gap is closing – Scott would certainly approve of the progress.

Sub-edited by Jack Goldsworthy-Knight

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