Durham FC Goalie works for Equity in Women's Soccer

Durham FC Goalie works for Equity in Women's Soccer

Tatiana Saunders, one of our ambassadors, is currently a goalkeeper for Durham Women FC in Durham, England. Saunders was recently sidelined for 11 months due to wrist and meniscus injuries. Her recovery time gave Saunders the opportunity to involve herself in other aspects of her life outside of soccer- while playing soccer, she is also studying for a master’s degree. We recently interviewed her about her professional soccer career and her thoughts surrounding equal pay for women in sports.

After a successful soccer career at Dartmouth College, Saunders decided to pursue a career in finance. However, while working on Wall Street, Saunders missed playing soccer and felt that her window of opportunity to play was getting smaller each year. Saunders decided to get out of the city and change her career trajectory to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a professional soccer player. She was determined to use soccer as an impactful platform for positive change. Prior to playing for Durham, she was the goalkeeper for Lewes, a UK club that is community-owned. Lewes emphasizes a democratic approach to enact change within the organization. Each individual is able to buy one share annually which costs £40, granting them one voting right. Lewes FC launched Equality FC in 2018, making it the first soccer program in the world to offer equal resources and budgets for its men’s and women’s team. During her time at Lewes, Saunders supported Equality FC by speaking to sponsors to increase investment in the club, highlighting the opportunity for firms to align their values with those of Lewes FC. (The more investment in the club, the more the club can grow, the better the competition, the more interest from the public, the bigger the platform to spread awareness). Saunders conducted various interviews via newspapers/TV/documentaries etc to spread awareness about the tremendous disparities in football, and how investment can mitigate these disparities. 

She also emphasized that investing in women’s sport isn’t just growing the game and giving athletes the resources to progress, it has financial reward as well. Games are becoming more competitive and therefore more entertaining- more people are interested in women’s sport. For example, there are up-and-coming teams in the World Cup such as Morocco that beat powerhouses because they’ve been receiving more funding and developing more talented players in recent years. She referred to this as a “wake up call,” that other national teams are catching up and talent across the globe is increasing.  We are seeing record timing sellouts in games all over the world- not just in soccer but all sports. 

Saunders talked about how it can often be a concern that investing in women’s sports will take away from the men’s side. One argument is that many believe women shouldn’t have the same investment because they don’t sell the same amount of tickets as men, however, as we can see in the world cup, given the opportunity women’s sport can make record numbers. Before it was banned for 50 years, women’s soccer in England was actually more popular than men’s!  Contrary to this, Saunders found that at Lewes FC, investing in women’s sports did not take away from men’s, but rather “grew the pie, making both teams more successful both on and off the pitch!” Saunders highlights that individuals can make a difference and shouldn’t just accept the status quo. Equality between male and female athletes can be pursued and will benefit all.