By John Gorrie, 3 Aug 2015
Since the beginning of organised sport, women have scratched, clawed and fought their way to be able to compete at the highest level in their chosen pursuits.
From the origins of Olympic sport which not only barred women from competing but did not allow them to even attend the Games at all. Not until the 1900 Paris Games were female competitors ‘invited to compete’, much at the behest of Pierre de Coubertin, the instigator of the modern Olympiad.
In those Games 22 women out of a total of 997 athletes competed in just five sports: tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrian and golf. But only golf and tennis had events for women only.
It has without question been an uphill battle for women to receive not only recognition and funding to even half the level of their male counterparts, But in some cases they are actively discouraged from participating in sport at all – as a recent UN report into sport equality confirmed.
So it is unquestionable in the majority of cases the proverbial deck was stacked high and the struggle of those brave women to get equality within the sporting landscape was hard and well fought battle.
However that was then. This is now.
The recent success of the Matildas’ World Cup campaign was rightly lauded across the Australian media. Plenty of fans jumped on to support the ‘Girls in Gold’. However, almost like clockwork, the old adage of equal pay rears its head in conjunction with the ‘backslapping’ from the media.
The members of the ‘Matildas’ World Cup Squad were paid a match fee of $500 per game, Compared to the Socceroos $7,500 per game. Now come the well intentioned media outlets and breakfast TV hosts lamenting the fact that the girls don’t earn enough as their male counterparts.
Now I see two issues here. Firstly, doesn’t everyone find it a touch derogatory to constantly bring up these points during a run of success? Shouldn’t we be rejoicing in the fact no matter who has been competing they have performed well?
Would we hear the howls of the equal pay brigade coming out of the woodwork if they had been bundled out in the group stage with back-to-back losses?
Secondly lets look at the all important numbers. The FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 was hosted in Canada. The total attendance figures for that tournament were 1,353,506 with an average of 26,029. Television ratings for the final was 25.4 million. Let’s compare this to the Men’s World Cup in Brazil.Total attendance figures were 3,429,873 (53,592 per match), and the TV figures for the final were reputed to be over 1 billion.
I think the numbers speak for themselves.
This reality gets lost in the debate far too often. The fact is if the same finances were being generated across women’s sport they should undoubtedly receive the same remuneration. However they don’t.
In tennis, where equality in pay is a reality, men and women pull in much more equal viewership and finances worthy of the pay both receive in major tournaments.
However away from the majors where men and women play separately, we see a very different story. The women’s tour has 31 tournaments for a total prize pool of $24.6 million and an average $794,000. Contrast this to the men’s tour which has 51 tournaments with a total prize of $65 million for an average of $1.29 million.
Let’s draw a line in the sand and say of course we want women in sport and of course the deserve equal pay. However the duly noted and overused arguments every time a disparity in pay is noticed must stop.
We would do better to not belittle the achievements of our proud female athletes with debates on equal pay and instead focus on the achievements on the pitch. This is the only way to ensure a fair playing field for all.