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Life's a Pitch - The Quest for Equality in Women's Football

24/07/2015 17:43 BST | Updated 24/07/2016 10:59 BST

There's a stark contrast between what men and women earn in UK football. With a huge boost from the recent Women's World Cup, what does the future hold for the sport?

My biggest regret in life is turning my back on international football. I chose an education instead of the sport. Over a decade later the profile of the women's game has never been higher - but there's still so much to do.

It's a well-known fact that male footballers earn a bob or two. Wayne Rooney is one of the highest paid, netting a staggering £300,000 per week. Theo Walcott takes home £100,000 and Phil Jagielka pockets £50,000 a week.

Compared to the Women's Super League, the difference is staggering. The official WSL website states that "a club can pay no more than four players an annual salary of more than £20k." Only a handful of WSL players earn over the average national wage of £26,500, with many on £20,000 and some WSL players earning the equivalent of £50 per week, according to the BBC.

England Women earn a base-salary of over £21,000 and, if they are lucky enough to also be on a central contract from their club, their overall salary can top £40,000 in a year - well under the amount Phil Jagielka earns in a week.

International call-up and on-field play can also reap rewards. Had England's men's team won the World Cup in Brazil, each player would have taken home £350,000. For England women's team to win the 2015 World Cup, the incentive prize money was ten times less - £35,000.

Most female players work part-time jobs. Chelsea Ladies and England defender Claire Rafferty works as an analyst for Deutsche Bank, telling the Telegraph; "I felt I had to carry on working because of my injuries. If I had one more setback, I'd have nothing."

Siobhan Chamberlain - who holds degrees in sports science and sports nutrition - is employed as a lecturer by South Gloucestershire and Stroud College and Katie Chapman, a Chelsea Ladies central midfielder, trained to become a beautician in 2011.

Many England women study alongside playing in order to secure jobs after their career. Forward, Eniola Aluko, studied Law at Brunel University in 2008 and spent the US season break studying for the New York Bar exam in 2010. It's also been widely publicised that midfielder Fara Williams was homeless during her early England career.

Money isn't everything

The relative pittance earned shows that there is true passion for the women's game. If we took away the earnings of male football, would playing be as romanticised?

Cristiano Ronaldo famously refused to celebrate goals in 2012 whilst at Real Madrid, claiming he was "feeling sad" about the "professional situation" at the club. Many saw this as an attack on wages. Ronaldo was the world's tenth highest paid footballer at the time.

It's important to note that the women's game is only 20 years old and - with attendance still low, generating little revenue for clubs - it will take time for the playing field to even out. However, to suggest that the pay gap is anything short of acceptable would be ludicrous.

The future of the sport

Continental Tyres are currently the lead partner for the WSL and energy company SSE have provided a cash injection for the Women's FA Cup, being held at Wembley for the first time in August - an excellent step forward in women's football.

However, sponsorships of players and product endorsements are thin on the ground. If the current interest in women's football continues, brands should see the value in backing players -- both for financial and equality reasons. Here's hoping that BT Sport pick up more WSL games after the success of the World Cup.

The Women's team certainly make better role models than their male counterparts. You'll see very little diving and time-wasting, no bar-brawls, use of prostitutes, drug use or tabloid scandals from the women. Instead you'll get a high level of professionalism and a passion to represent the country.

Off the back of the Lionesses World Cup glory, women's football is thriving. An uprising is happening. Girls and women are starting kick-abouts in playgrounds, parks, sports centres and fields across the UK - follow the #WeCanPlay to get involved.