Netball's landmark player pay rise is what all Australian women need now

Netball’s landmark player pay rise deal is what all Australian women need right now

The best netballers in Australia will soon be paid up to 22 per cent more, thanks to a landmark deal between Netball Australia, the Australian Netball Players’ Association and the eight Suncorp Super Netball clubs.

The deal will see the netballers remaining the highest paid female domestic club athletes in the country, with the average maximum salary of contracted players increasing from $75,167 a year to $91,500.

It marks a positive development in pay equity and seeing women paid what their work, a bright spot during these pandemic times and as Australia’s gender pay gap is worryingly growing.

Indeed, this two-year deal comes at a time when netball — like every other sport and almost every other employer in the country — has been contending with significant uncertainty, upheaval and change due to COVID-19 and its related restrictions. Players have endured significant turmoil over the past two season, having to shift across borders and in and out of player bubbles.

But the sport has seen some positive developments in recent months, including a massive new broadcast agreement with the Foxtel Group, that will see every game of the 2022 season broadcast live across either Foxtel of Kayo Sports.

Importantly, it’s not just the top players who will see a pay increase. The average minimum player salary of contracted players will also rise, by 15 per cent — growing from $36,667 to $43,000. Training partners will also benefit from this deal, seeing their honorarium increasing from $3500 to $5000 a year.

Joanna Weston, the President of the Australian Netball Players’ Association, said the deal gave appropriate recognition of the athletes, particularly given the sacrifices they have made over the past two seasons.

“It is hugely satisfying that, following the league’s ground-breaking new broadcast deal in February, players are being appropriately acknowledged through this new pay deal for our contribution to the sport and for the sacrifices we have made over the last two years,” she said.

In a player’s statement issued over the weekend, Super Netball Players said they pride themselves on their “professionalism” and that this deal is not just about getting paid more, but rather reflecting the way they go about their business. They see themselves as “custodians of the Game” and want to push the sport to new levels, leaving it better than it was before. They said that given the ground-breaking new broadcast deal signed in February, it’s satisfying to see that the players “are being appropriately recognised”.

Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan said the deal ensures that Australia’s netballers remain the best in the world, and she highlighted the “constructive” work done between the major parties in order to reach this outcome.

“Increasing the sustainability of netball and improving athlete conditions were central to these negotiations and we are delighted to reach an agreement on this deal, which delivers players a pay rise of up to 22%.”

This landmark deal again highlights how fast we can move on rectifying pay inequity and pay imbalances in Australia, and should signal a call to other sports to ensure they are appropriately valuing the contributions of female athletes.

Back in 2013, when we first started examining pay in women’s sport on Women’s Agenda, the best-performing players in netball still couldn’t make a fair living from the game. Back then, players were pushing for squad members to have the $200 they were receiving while on duty increased to just over $400. The national team’s players were taking home an average of $10,000 a year, from the 50 or so contract days they were required to put in. It’s incredible to think that former Australian netball captain Liz Ellis was still practising full time for the first four years that she was on the Australian team, somehow balancing a full-time workload in a large city law firm alongside her training and competition commitments.

This latest deal shows that things can change, and why women must get the financial recognition they deserve.

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