The Federal Economic Competition Commission (COFECE) fined 17 Liga MX soccer clubs for engaging in absolute monopolistic practices, and for aiding and abetting the Mexican Soccer Federation (FMF) and eight individuals.
COFECE establishes that absolute monopolistic practice is an illegal agreement between economic agents that harms competition. It has as its object: manipulating prices, manipulating supply or demand, dividing the market, colluding in public bids and exchanging information with any of the above objects or effects.
In a press release, COFECE reported that the clubs colluded to avoid or inhibit competition in the soccer player signing market through two conducts:
- Imposing ceiling caps on the salaries of female players, which further deepened the wage gap between female and male soccer players
- Segmenting the market for players by establishing a mechanism that prevented them from freely negotiating and contracting with new teams, known as the Gentlemen's Agreement.
COFECE notes that, since the creation of Liga MX Femenil in 2016, various clubs agreed to establish a salary cap for women based on three categories:
- Women over 23 years of age would earn a maximum of two thousand pesos.
- Those under 23 years of age, 500 pesos plus a course for their personal training.
- Players in the U-17 category with no income, but could receive transportation, study and food assistance.
The COFECE indicated that imposing this salary cap on players, whose duration was from November 2016 to May 2019, constituted a collusive agreement between the Clubs that had "the object and effect of manipulating prices."
The clubs sanctioned by COFECE, according to file I0-002-2018 are:
- América Soccer club (América)
- Pachuca Club (Pachuca)
- Social and Cultural Sports Club Cruz Azul (Cruz Azul)
- Mazatlán Soccer team (then Monarcas)
- Chivas de Corazón (Guadalajara)
- Santos Laguna (Santos)
- Sinergia Deportiva (Tigres)
- Deportivo Toluca Futbol Club (Toluca)
- Club Universidad Nacional (Universidad)
- Monterrey Rayados Soccer club (Rayados)
- Impulsora del Deportivo Necaxa (Necaxa)
- Club de Futbol Atlante (Atlante)
- Servicios Profesionales de Operación (Tijuana)
- Rojinegros Soccer Club (Atlas)
- Fuerza Deportiva del Club León (León)
- Club Gallos Blancos (Querétaro o Gallos)
- Operadora de Escenarios Deportivos (Puebla)
This practice, according to COFECE, prevented "the clubs from competing for their contracts through better salaries", which not only had a negative impact on their income, but also had the effect of widening the gender wage gap.
The first cap on players' remuneration was part of the presentation of the Liga MX Femenil project and was approved by the Liga MX Sports Development Committee.
This agreement was replaced by another in the 2018-2019 season, through a statement Liga MX informed the clubs that the maximum cap would be 15 thousand pesos and only 4 of its players could earn above that amount, in addition to in-kind support could not exceed 50 thousand pesos per tournament.
In 2019, Yon de Luisa, then president of the FMF, commented that the wage gap was not a gender issue, but that Mexican women's soccer does not generate profits like men's soccer, so it qualifies with difficulty to homologate salaries.
According to the Global Sports Salary Survey, carried out by the agency Sporting Intelligence, in the specific case of the maximum circuit of Mexican women's soccer, the Liga MX Femenil has the worst average annual salary worldwide.
Following the resolution, the FMF responded that both the Gentlemen's Agreement and the salary cap for female players were eliminated between 2018 and 2019; although COFECE itself indicates this in the report.
At a press conference, María José López, player and captain of Club Puebla was questioned by reporters on the subject; however, she stated that she could not comment on the Club's decisions.
At the insistence of some reporters, the player said that the women's league is very united and that, if required, among them would be willing to unite and request labor improvements.
She was also questioned on how to improve women's soccer and make it a more attractive spectacle for the fans; although, it must be remembered that, in the same media, the dissemination of activities of the women's league is almost nil.
Translation done by: Karla Giselle Bonales Ramírez