The dreadful reason women’s cricket made it to the front page

The Australian cover 15th December 2016 The Australian cover 15th December 2016

It’s not every day that women’s sports makes the front page of any newspaper, let alone a national broadsheet like The Australian. It has today but hold off on celebrating.

Meg Lanning, the captain of Australia’s women’s cricket team, is not on the front page to talk about the growing number of women playing and watching the game. Nor is she there to talk about the successful launch of the Big Bash league.

She is on the front page because Peter Lalor, a senior sports reporter with The Australian, has written a sobering expose which reveals the extent of the disparity between male and female cricketers.

“Male cricketers fly home to be with their wives when their children are born; women have to vouch they aren’t pregnant when they sign a contract,” Lalor writes. “Men are guaranteed a doctor on standby at all games; women in the National Cricket League are not. Women who work for Cricket Australia in non-playing roles get maternity leave. Women cricketers who sign a contract with the organisation don’t.”

The submission from the Australian Cricketers Association to Cricket Australia, leaked to The Australian, seeks a single agreement for men and women, rather than the current arrangement which it claims treats female players like “second-class citizens”.

Women are contractually obliged to be “courteous”, men aren’t.

Men in the game earn a minimum of $270,000 a year, while for women it’s $40,000.

Men can sign multi-year contracts while women can only sign for a year at a time.

Women don’t have the same access to injury payments and income protection as men.

If Cricket Australia is serious about ­“creating meaningful equality of opportunity, regardless of gender” the players association is calling for the gap to be closed.  Both Steve Smith and Dave Warner, have endorsed the submission calling for better treatment for women cricketers.

The vast chasm between male and female athletes isn’t new.

Women’s sport receives about 7% of Australian TV sports programming and 9% of sports coverage on the news. Even horses get more coverage than female athletes.  

It is the tip of the iceberg that ensures less funding, less sponsorship and lower salaries. It also creates and perpetuates a lack of visibility of female role models in sports: a great swathe of Australians – young and old, boys and girls, - miss out on seeing what women athletes are capable of.

But it is changing. The AFL and the ARU are now investing heavily in women because it’s one of the best growth opportunities in their sports. Three years ago the ARU decided to capitalize on the growth of women in the game by paying the women’s seven’s team.  Their gold medal in Rio earlier this year, was a neat reward for all involved.  

In Cricket, women are, relatively speaking better off than ever before: in NSW female players had their salaries doubled this year but only to ensure they earned a minimum wage.

But despite these gains, as Peter Lalor’s report shows, the picture for women in the sport needs to be improved. It’s not the ideal reason to make the papers, but the fact the unequal treatment of women did make frontpage news is something of a boon: imagine if it was relegated to a footnote in the back pages? It’s not that hard to picture.    

Georgina Dent

Georgina Dent is a Contributing Editor at Women's Agenda. She began her working life as a lawyer before building a career in journalism as an editor, reporter and recognised advocate for women. Follow her on Twitter here and Facebook here.    

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