When you work, you get paid: it’s the most basic of concepts.

One of the last groups that you would expect to be struggling to pay rent is elite athletes, right? But unfortunately this exact situation is happening in front of our very eyes – and we had no idea until recently. 

After an ugly pay dispute began, it came to light that the Westfield Matildas are actually paid less minimum wage, despite having a full-time schedule.

Speaking to Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams opened our eyes to how serious the situation actually is. The talented athlete told us that the current proposal that has been offered by the Football Federation Australia (FFA) is a 10% increase for their base pay. Which sounds pretty standard, but they are currently earning 21k, so that offer is still far below minimum wage. No, that’s not a typo – they only earn twenty one thousand dollars. “It’s not even a question to say that that’s not right.”

“Their solution is a bandaid for something that needs stitches”, said Williams. “We’re at least hoping to be [offered] minimum wage, and to go back to a tiered system. Top tier would be approximately 40k, and 2nd tier would be 33-34k. Which is, [laughs], you know… a lot better than where we’re at now.”

In the past, other female athletes have spoken out about needing second jobs to financially survive. However, because of the recent World Cup, the Matildas simply have not had time, due to an extremely demanding training schedule: “Leading into the World Cup, it was a full time programme… It was a World Cup, nothing was gonna get in the way of what we wanted to achieve. Now we’re still in limbo – we want a full-time programme, but when we’re on part time wages. It’s not reachable.”

Williams: “Women’s sport in Australia is getting to the stage where you can become a full-time athlete. The game changes, and more professionalism is demanded. Something has to be sacrificed, and for us, that’s work.”

P.TV: “Yet, you aren’t paid enough to support yourselves…”

Williams: “Yep, exactly. Pretty much all the girls live at home because they can’t afford to move out. […] Some girls have had to get credit cards, some of us are scraping into our savings to buy a house one day. Some girls have had to exchange all their international money here, just so they have some cash around.”

In the past week, the Matildas have cancelled their tour of the United States, in an attempt to have their pay increased just to the standard minimum wage (approximately $31,000). While many are devastated that they won’t be able to see the athletes play, most are understanding and supportive of the women being able to reach a fair pay scale for their careers. There’s been an outpouring of support on social media – including the use of the Twitter hashtag #BackThePlayers.

“The support we’ve had has been incredible, and that’s been the most rewarding thing about it. You know, we have people on our side – a lot of people. So much support from the public – men, women, kids.” 

“We’re trying to grow the game for the future, as well as help ourselves, because we’re struggling.

Image via Getty Images