Alyce Collett / youthjournalism.org
The first women's match in the Australian Football League in May 2015.
By Alyce Collett
MELBOURNE, Australia – It’s International Women’s Day again, and I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the past year in women’s sports in Australia.
There have been a lot of improvement in terms of equality between women’s and men’s sports in Australia in the past year, but a lot of improvements can still be made.
This time last year, women’s sports weren’t very close to being equal with men’s sports at all. The pay was terrible. Few news stories focused on women’s sports and few matches were broadcast on TV.
In some positive news, that situation has improved, but only slightly. Certain sports have given their female athletes better pay and more stories about women’s sports are appearing in mainstream media, but that’s about it. The TV match coverage situation hasn’t improved and while soccer and cricket have both seen pay increases for female athletes, the pay is still atrocious.
Let’s first take a look at the situation with the sport that has taken the most steps forward this year: soccer. Women’s soccer in Australia has had a fantastic year, spurred on by some terrific results from the women’s national team, the Matildas. The media coverage is better, but could still improve. In newspapers, there have been a few Matildas-related articles and a few stories about the national league (the W-League), but they aren’t regular.
Television coverage is worse. There were only news stories when the Matildas played in major tournaments and the W-League still doesn’t have a regular TV broadcaster. The pay level for top tier athletes is still at an unacceptable level. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corp., the minimum salary for Matildas players is $34,000, or $25,260 in U.S. dollars, which is roughly $40,000, or almost $30,000 in U.S. dollars, under Australia’s national average wage.
Alyce Collett / youthjournalism.org
A cricket match between the Melbourne Stars and the Adelaide Strikers of the Women's Big Bash League in January 2016.
These athletes are being paid less than they are worth. With their continued success and the real possibly of them being Olympic contenders – they qualified for the 2016 Olympics on March 7 – it will be hard to continue to underpay them.
Another sport that had seen some improvement in terms of equality is cricket. During the past year, the Southern Stars, which is Australia’s national women’s team, have achieved some great team success, and this has been reflected in their treatment back home. The level of coverage they have received has gone up in the print media forums, and networks are telecasting more of their games.
The introduction of the Women’s T20 Big Bash League in the 2015/16 season saw a broadcast of domestic level games for the first time, and the ratings proved that the decision by a major Australian network to broadcast the women’s matches was the right one.
Despite all these positives, they are still being underpaid for the amount of work they do. Sure, top players such as Meg Lanning can earn up to $85,000 – more than $63,000 in U.S. dollars – but she is only one of a few players in a sport where their male counterparts can earn over $1 million. Hopefully if the Southern Stars can win their 4th T20 World Cup in a row, they will get better pay. In addition maybe the networks will realize that broadcasting the WBBL was a smart idea and they will broadcast more games next season.
Australian Rules is unfortunately lagging behind soccer and cricket in terms of equality for its female athletes. There is still no national league for women and coverage for state leagues is pretty much non-existent. Only a few volunteer-run organizations broadcast women’s football, but they aren’t as powerful as the major newspapers.
The aim is to have a national league in place for women players, but with certain officials at the Australian Football League in charge making silly suggestions such as changing the structure of the game, this may not happen. Not many details have been released about the proposed new league, but hopefully logic will prevail and the league will become real next year.As you can see, things have improved since this time last year, but there is still a fair bit of work to be done. In saying that, great hope remains for a massive year for women’s sport in Australia.
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