Finally, Italy

It is no secret that Italian football is stuck in the past. This will be the second World Cup in a row that the four time World Cup winners will be missing out on. No surprise, then, that they are also completely behind the times when it comes to the women's game as well. Yesterday, despite some initial dissent from Serie A that was "just a misunderstanding," the FIGC voted to make women's football in Italy professional, effective July 1st. Finally, Italy.

Welcome to 2022

Six years ago, I wrote about Milan Ladies, an amateur team playing in Serie B, a league who played on fields prioritized for boys teams and had to wash their own kits. Two years ago, when it was announced that Serie A Femminile would be transitioning toward professional status, I wrote about Milan Femminile and women's football in Italy. More specifically, the disparity in pay, contracts, and benefits. 

Currently, the highest that a woman in Serie A can be paid is twenty times less than what the lowest current Milan male player makes. Literally, some women in Serie A have been making as little as €63 per week with an €81 per match bonus, even though they train as hard as their male counterparts who make millions. Women currently have no pension or severance pay, and becoming pregnant could be grounds for termination, rather than being allowed maternity leave like in other women's leagues or professional jobs.

Milan Femminile trained under the watchful eye of Italy Women's National Team manager Milena Bertolini this week

The women's game in Italy has been growing rapidly, particularly since World Cup 2019, which got higher television ratings in Italy than some of the men's Euro qualifying or U21 Euro matches that year. Not to mention the fact that the Italian women actually played in the Women's World Cup, and are at the top of their qualifying group for next year's World Cup, too. Women's football has actually been played in Italy since the 1960's, but always with amateur status. Still, it's 2022. Even if the U.S. Women's National Team had to sue U.S. Soccer and finally won their case just this year to get equal pay, the first women's professional league in the United States was founded back in 1995.

Now that female players will be professionals, they will be considered employees of their clubs and can sign actual contracts. There will be no salary cap, meaning they finally have the possibility to earn more than €30,000 per year (women in England have starting salaries of €27,000 per year in comparison.) Now they will be eligible for individual health benefits, maternity leave without fear of losing their jobs, the possibility of severance pay when they do leave, and pensions when they retire.

They even get to wear the horrific kits that the men's team wear

Professional status benefits more than just the individual players, however. It allows the game itself to grow. Clubs can finally profit from player sales in the mercato, as well as sign non-European union players easier, with fewer restrictions involving work permits. This move will also allow growth in both sponsorship and television rights deals to increase revenue. 

Who knows, maybe someday, women will get to play in actual stadiums instead of the youth team stadiums and have their own social media accounts? This is a big step forward, even if it is many years overdue. Given the corruption that is still the status quo in the men's Serie A and the fact that the men's national team cannot even qualify for the World Cup, I do not have a lot of faith in the women's game being allowed to grow as fast as it needs to in order to catch up with other women's leagues throughout the world. But at least the women can have some hope of making an actual career of doing what they love. Finally, Italy.

This post inspired by the music of The Cranberries' "Dreams"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 35
Milan vs. Fiorentina
Sunday, May 1 • 15:00 CEST (9am EDT)

Finally, Italy Finally, Italy Reviewed by Elaine on 11:00 PM Rating: 5
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