Mexico fines football teams for capping female players' wages

Mexico’s anti-monopoly commission said the teams will be fined about $9 million for illegal practices.

The salary cap appears to have been in place since Mexico’s women’s football league was formed in 2016. (Representative Image)

Mexico's antitrust authority on Thursday fined more than a dozen soccer clubs and the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) in a historic move over salary caps for female players and labor movement restrictions.

The FMF, 17 clubs and eight unidentified people were handed fines totaling 177.6 million pesos ($8.9 million), according to a statement by Cofece, the antitrust authority.

After the women's league was created in 2016, the clubs colluded to impose ceilings on female players' salaries of between 500 pesos ($25) and 2,000 pesos ($100) monthly, Cofece said. Younger players in the Under-17 category were not paid a salary, only provided with aid for education and food.

The FMF sent communications to "persuade" the clubs to adhere to the limits and verified that they were in compliance, Cofece alleged.

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In the 2018-19 season, the agreement was modified and salary ceilings were set at 15,000 pesos ($750) monthly.

"The practice... not only had a negative impact on their income, but also had the consequence of widening the gender pay gap," Cofece said of the impact on players in a statement.

The fined clubs and the FMF for a decade applied a so-called "gentlemen's agreement" through which clubs maintained the right to retain players even after their contracts expired.

A new team would have to get the endorsement of a player's current team and often pay before hiring them.

The FMF and Liga MX, which is comprised of the clubs, said in a joint statement that the "gentlemen's agreement" ended in 2018 and the salary caps ended in May 2019.

The FMF and Liga MX added that they will not challenge the fines imposed by Cofece.

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