Most footballers can only ever dream of scoring the winning goal against Brazil at Wembley and certainly not at an Olympic Games.
However, this is precisely what England’s Women’s Player of the Year did – almost certainly to the envy of many of her male counterparts.
It was some achievement for the twenty-four year old Steph Houghton who subsequently became the poster girl of English women’s football when she was awarded Women’s Player of the Year earlier this month.
Despite this accolade she earns less in a year than Wayne Rooney earns in a day. The annual salary for a top female player is £20,000 per year. Wages for women footballers are so low they are permitted to take on a second job of up to 24 hours a week. Wayne Rooney earns £26,000 a day. Can you imagine the response if one of Alex Ferguson’s star players turned up late for training because he’d finished his second job late? No, neither can I. The disparity in footballers’ wages is quite shocking – I understand that premier league football generates significant revenue through sponsorship but I also find it depressing that a male footballer at the top of his game earns in a day what a top female footballer will earn in a year.
I’ve said before that a significant part of the Olympic legacy must be to encourage more women to participate and compete in sport. And women such as Steph Houghton have become an important champion to make this happen.
The Football Association still has a significant amount of work to do in this area; while it celebrates its 150th anniversary, it only started to run women’s football 20 years ago.
However, there is hope that the FA is beginning to take women’s football more seriously – it has committed to invest £3.5 million over the next four years with the aim to make the women’s game the second largest team sport by 2018 (overtaking men’s rugby and cricket).
It is only if other sports make similar commitments that we will see a generation of capable women smashing new records.