MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s anti-monopoly commission announced Thursday that it had fined more than a dozen soccer teams for plotting to cap female soccer players’ salaries.

The Mexican Football Federation (FMF), 17 clubs and eight unidentified individuals were fined a total of 177.6 million pesos ($ 8.9 million), according to a statement from the Cofece antitrust agency.

After the Women’s League was founded in 2016, clubs agreed to cap female players’ salaries between 500 pesos ($ 25) and 2,000 pesos ($ 100) a month, Cofece said. Younger players in the U17 category did not receive a salary, but only received help for education and food.

The FMF sent notices to “convince” clubs to adhere to the limits and verified that they were adhering to them, Cofece claimed.

In the 2018/19 season, the agreement was changed and the salary cap was set at 15,000 pesos ($ 750) per month.

“The practice … not only had a negative impact on their income, it also widened the gender pay gap,” Cofece said in a statement on the impact on players.

The fined clubs and the FMF applied what is known as a “gentlemen’s agreement” for a decade, whereby clubs retain the right to keep players after their contracts have expired.

A new team would need to obtain approval from a player’s current team and pay often before being hired.

The FMF and Liga MX, which consists 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 contest the fines imposed by Cofece.

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