Of all the talking points of this year’s US Open, which concludes today in New York, perhaps one of the most overshadowed has been that it’s marked the 50th anniversary of the tournament awarding both the men and women’s players the same prize money.

It’s hard to overstate quite how monumental a step that was half a century ago for both the sport of tennis, and for women’s sport as a whole.

Until that point, female tennis players were earning, on average, 59 cents to every dollar the men were earning.

It’s a stat that was, and remains, so familiar to so many female athletes.

That for playing in the same level of competitions, winning the same level of tournament, they earn so much less than male athletes for their efforts.

For all the success of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which elevated women’s football to a level never seen before in terms of viewing figures and interest around the world, the battle for equal pay remains a constant across so many nations.

The claims this week by several top sports’ lawyers that the Lionesses exhilarating run to the final of the Women’s World Cup will considerably strengthen their case for equal pay says so much about female footballers’ fight.

It’s taken them reaching the final of the biggest tournament in their sport for a good case to be made for equal pay; the arguments that equal pay is the right thing to do, or that female athletes deserve to be remunerated equally are not enough. No, only an exceptional result is a strong enough argument that England’s female footballers should be paid equally to the men – who haven’t reached a World Cup final since 1966, it should be noted.

The USA’s national women’s team endured a prolonged legal battle for equal pay – despite the fact they have consistently out-performed the USA’s men’s team for decades – only winning their case a year ago.

Spain, the new world champions, only secured an equal pay deal from their federation last year and in Scotland, the disparity remains, with the SFA still refusing to pay the women’s team equally to the men’s.

And Spain’s prize money for winning the Women’s World Cup last month was, despite having increased over 300 percent on the 2019 tournament, still only 25 percent of what the men’s World Cup champions make.

The Herald: Spain World Cup winner Alexia Putellas, pictured, says she stands with her team-mate Jenni Hermoso after Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales refused to resign on Friday (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Tennis can lay claim to being the fairest in terms of equal pay, although despite all the major tournaments paying equal prize money, across the rest of the tour there remains a significant gap between men’s and women’s remuneration.

The inequality is not particularly surprising; it is prevalent in almost every walk of life. What is surprising, however, is quite how little the argument has moved on over the past half century.

Still, the same old tropes are rowed out about why female athletes should not get paid the same as their male counterparts; that women’s sport isn’t as interesting or exciting as men’s sport; that female athletes don’t generate as much revenue as their male peers so why should they be paid similar amounts; and the old classic, that people just don’t want to watch women’s sport.

There’s easy rebukes to all of these points.

Firstly, who’s the judge of what makes interesting and exciting sport? Yes, the very best male athletes are generally faster and stronger than the very best female athletes due to their physiological advantages. But since when was it only worth watching the fastest and strongest few athletes on the planet? If that were the case, there wouldn’t be a soul watching Scottish football at all, such is the disparity between the level of men’s football being played in Scotland and the level being played by the very best teams on the planet.

Secondly, it’s correct that women’s sport does not, on the whole, generate the same levels of revenue as men’s sport. But it’s safe to say that at least some of this disparity is down to the far shorter time women’s sport has had to develop in comparison to men’s sport. Never forget that women’s football was banned in Britain until the 1970s. Women’s boxing was illegal until just over twenty years ago. So not only were female athletes discouraged from progressing, they were literally forbid from trying.

And lastly, the suggestion that people just aren’t interested in women’s sport is blatantly false. 

At its finale, almost 15 million people in Britain watched the conclusion of England’s final against Spain at the Women’s World Cup; women’s rugby and cricket viewing figures across the UK are up significantly on previous years and within Scotland, currently, some of this country’s most lauded athletes are female including Laura Muir, Katie Archibald and Caroline Weir.

And last month, over 92,000 fans showed up to watch a women’s college volleyball match in Nebraska to set a new record for the largest crowd ever at a women’s sporting event.

So, really, there’s no excuse for this inequality in pay within many sports to remain.

That this fight has been going on for fifty years, and remains ongoing, shows the obstacles so many female athletes have had to face over the past century.

As if striving to be one of the best athletes in the world isn’t enough, there is also the added mental load of fighting to be paid what they’re worth.

So for all the celebrations at the US Open over the past fortnight hailing the progressive stance taken by the tournament in 1973 to award equal prize money to both male and female players, don’t forget there’s still so many other female athletes continuing to fight the fight.