The Australian Sports Commission is warning major sporting organisations that unless they bring equality to travel arrangements for men and women athletes, they could lose millions in funding.
Surfing great Layne Beachley has welcomed the move, saying she had often witnessed the gender gap in other forms in her time as a professional surfer before retiring in 2010.
“There was huge disparity between the level of prize money, level of endorsements, level of marketing opportunity,” she told ABC News 24.
“Now we are seeing that gap narrow. It will take time but it starts with education, awareness and someone taking a stance and saying this is unacceptable, we need to change it.”
Federal Sports Minister Sussan Ley said there was “no defensible reason” why male and female athletes should travel in different classes or stay in different standard accommodation when attending major international sporting event, such as world cups.
This view was shared in a letter from the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) to some of the country’s top-funded sporting organisations, which outlined that gender-neutral travel policies would be a condition of government funding.
Minister Ley said this was another step towards fair and equitable recognition for female athletes.
“We acknowledge there can be complexities in travel arrangements, especially in relation to sponsored travel, which is why this is a consultative process,” Minister Ley said.
“Ultimately this is about working with sports to embrace cultural change, but we are serious about gender-equity and we have appropriate measures in place to ensure these principles are adopted.”
The government currently invests in more than 800 of Australia’s best athletes under the Athlete Investment (dAIS) program, of which 50 per cent are female.
University of NSW sport sponsoship expert Deborah Healey told SBS News women’s sports still captured less than 10 per cent of all commercial sponsorship.
“I think that generally men’s sports are more marketable, or are seen to be more marketable,” she said.
“They attract more viewers if shown on television, so I think sponsors are often more keen to associate themselves.”
There have been several instances of gender inequality within Australian sport, such as last’s year pay dispute between members of Australia’s national women’s female football and Football Federation Australia.
It was reported that Matildas players were paid around $500 per match, while their male counterparts received around $7500.
In 2012, Basketball Australia was criticised after it was revealed that the more successful female team, the Opals, travelled in economy class to the London Olympics, while the men’s team, the Boomers, flew business.
Bid to raise profile of women’s sports
A Cricket Australia spokesperson told SBS News the organisation was working to “further professionalise the women’s game, including increasing pay for domestic cricketers and providing greater on and off-field opportunities for our players through initiatives such as the Women’s Big Bach League”.
“Addressing discrepancies between the class of air travel for male and female cricketers is another important issue that we are committed to resolving,” the spokesperson said.
In a statement, the FFA said it “understands and agrees with the objective of the ASC’s calls for a gender neutral travel policy for senior world championship events”.
“The global nature of our game means that the Westfield Matildas travel very regularly throughout the world for international friendlies as well as major senior championships like the FIFA World Cup.
“FFA has stated on several occasions its long term plans to grow women’s football in Australia under the Whole of Football Plan and the first stage of that was to ensure FFA invested heavily in the pre-World Cup Program to give the Matildas the best possible opportunity to perform in Canada.
“This included preparation tournaments and camps in Europe. That has been followed by pay increases and better conditions in the latest CBA.
“As we see future growth in women’s football we will continue to improve the Matildas conditions in conjunction with funding of the W-League, elite pathways and grassroots to ensure the Matildas program is underpinned for generations to come.”
Today’s announcement has been a hot topic on social media.
#australiansportscommission If you funding gives #basketballaustralia players enough money to fly business class yr overfunding them!
— Lorraine Tobin (@lsw1305) February 2, 2016
Post by Enduro Queensland on Tuesday, February 2, 2016.
In 2013, the Australian Sports Commission released governance principles calling on top-funded sports to work towards a target of 40 per cent female representation on boards.
The average level of female representation on the boards of the top-22 funded sports has since increased by 12 per cent, jumping from 27 per cent in 2013 to 39 per cent.