In breaking news, the Matildas players have withdrawn from their Sydney training camp ahead of their USA tour, after failed negotiations with Football Federation Australia over a pay dispute.
Professional Footballers Australia chief executive Adam Vivian said “this decision has not been taken lightly, however the players feel they have been left with little option as the current proposal is simply unacceptable.”
“FFA has failed to recognise the significant sacrifices the Matildas players are forced to make in playing for their country. Their proposal would see players continue to be: unfairly remunerated for the work they undertake; denied access to a high performance environment, which dramatically reduces their ability to compete with the world’s best; and restricted in their ability to grow the women’s game.
“The players have sought to have their contribution to the game respected. The current proposal from FFA highlights their unwillingness to meaningfully address the core issues.”
Whatever the outcome with the Matildas is, there’s no denying that the pay cheques for men’s and women’s sport in Australia look pretty different…
Australian men’s test cricket has never been in a worse place, the Bledisloe has never felt further out of reach, and the best the Socceroos have ever done is reaching the round of 16 at the 2006 World Cup.
As an Australian sports fan, getting taunted by the Poms and the Kiwis are signs we’re living in pretty disappointing times, especially when you’re used to ‘straya winning everything.
But here’s the thing. We are winning everything. This year, the Matildas made it to the quarter final of the World Cup, the best result for Australian football ever. The Southern Stars regained the Women’s Ashes with a match to spare, and the Diamonds beat New Zealand to reclaim the Netball World Cup too.
If it seems like all of this has gone under the radar, that’s because it has. According to a new report, Towards A Level Playing Field: Sport in Australian Media, male sport makes up 81 per cent of TV coverage, compared to women’s sport at 8.7 per cent. And the worst thing, is that this is a declining number. The ABC’s decision to cut free to air coverage of the women’s basketball league and football W-League isn’t a move in the right direction, either.
Whether it’s the perceived lack of public appetite, lack of media coverage, inability thus far to effectively market a women’s sports league, social and cultural stereotypes that ‘women aren’t interested in sport’, or the fact that women’s sport isn’t big gambling business, national female sports players receive nowhere near the amount of coverage, salary and sponsorship as men.
This year, Cricket Australia announced that domestic female contracted players will receive a maximum retainer of $7,000, with those signed to play in the T20 competition receiving additional retainers of $3,000 to $10,000. Cricket Australia-contracted players can earn retainers of more than $50,000, which isn’t too bad, but it’s still difficult to fathom for a sport with the highest ranked women’s team in the world.
In 2014, the minimum men’s retainer was $230,000, and – for who knows what reasons – Shane Watson was Australia’s highest paid cricketer, taking home a cool $4.5 million.
Similarly, most players in the National Women’s Soccer League are paid $6500 to $32,000 and the salary cap for the eight teams in the women’s league is $150,000. The Australian men’s league’s salary cap is $2.3 million. Internationally, it’s even worse. If the Matildas had made it to the World Cup semi-final, they would’ve received $1,250 each to play compared to the $11,500 of their male counterparts.
And of the top 50 BRW top sport earners in Australia, only two are women, with surfer Stephanie Gilmore coming in at number 39 with $1.75 million and golfer Karrie Webb scraping in at number 50 with $1.28 million. It’s a pretty disheartening result for aspiring women athletes out there.
Alcohol sponsored games, teams and grounds in male leagues (VB Australian men’s cricket team, VB State of Origin Blues, XXXX State of Origin Maroons) aren’t a great model when it comes to putting marketing and sponsorship dollars on the table for women, because giving young girls role models, and encouraging them to keep playing sport needs a different approach.
Obviously women’s games don’t get bums on seats in our sporting nation like men’s games do, but there needs to be a change somewhere. It’s going to take better organising and scheduling from sports administrators, better communication with sporting agencies about women’s fixtures and results, a removal of the stereotype that women aren’t interested in sport, higher attendance at games, increased marketing to young girls, and a change in the socialisation of gender stereotypes. It’s a long list, but it’s not impossible.
The W-League played curtain raisers to men’s games last season, which was a great opportunity to showcase the sport. Plus. the AFL broadcast its first women’s exhibition match in August, and with an average Melbourne viewing of 175,000, it was the top performer in its timeslot. So clearly there’s public appetite there. We can put the fact the siren went 90 seconds early because the men had to come on down to teething issues…