I read a story in this weekend’s Courier-Mail which mentions a “wages battle” that is apparently happening in Australia’s national netball league at the moment. It reports players from all teams in each of the four First Round matches of this year’s national league participated in short on-court protests before the start of their games.
The report also says that “Netball Australia is set to hand negotiations back to individual states once a minimum salary band of about $1500 is agreed.” The Queensland Firebirds team “should receive between $1500 and $4500 each including training and travelling allowances and match payments.”
The story also mentions “speculation that Victorian Sports Minister, Justin Madden, will call on every state Sports Minister to hold a forum to help improve the payment to Australia’s sportswomen.”
Rather symptomatically, this story wasn’t in the online version of the Courier-Mail, and I also couldn’t find a mention of it anywhere else online.
I’m not pretending to be a netball fan, although that’s not specifically because it’s ‘women’s sport’. I don’t find basketball (men’s or women’s) particularly interesting either.
I also don’t suggest that the problem of very low pay for most elite sportswomen can be solved be pretending that this isn’t basically a function of market forces. If there’s insufficient public interest – whether through attendances or television audiences (and flow on aspects like commercial sponsorship and merchandise) – then it won’t be economic to provide decent payment. However, media coverage and promotion is obviously a key aspect of this, and this is usually very poor for women’s sport. It is certainly worth examining what things are getting in the way of this situation being improved.
I mention all this by way of noting that there is currently a Senate inquiry into the issue of women’s sport in Australia, which is being conducted by the Committee that I am Chair of. Despite the official name being the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee, it also covers the additional area of Sport.
The Terms of Reference for the inquiry can be found be clicking here. It covers much more than just pay issues for elite female athletes, including participation rates at community level and health and social benefits. If you know anyone interested in the topic, please encourage them to put in a submission.