Australian Rules Football, (AFL) a game which has been played for over one hundred years in Australia. Born out of Melbourne in the late 1850’s. John Northey, of Swooper Coach suggests that today’s game is controlled by the corporate dollar, with the 18 team strong league, many clubs fight to increase profits. It allows participation at all levels able to be played by all levels of physicality, children both male and female, as young as six right through to veterans playing a modified game called Super Rules. AFL Community Club, 2017 says that AFL is becoming the sport of choice for diverse communities, and is one of the most multicultural in terms of participation levels, that the Australian sporting landscape offers. It was also reported by AFL Community Club, that up to 25% of current AFL lists are from diverse backgrounds (11% Indigenous Australians and 14% Multicultural Australians). There are programs which are also enabling young talent identification and giving more opportunities to future players.
When analysing AFL and the introduction of the Women’s League, for the first time in history this 2016/2017 season, it’s important to be mindful that AFL need to keep pushing for equality and have the support behind it. As long as the women are playing the same game, they deserve the right to be paid equally. This was compared to Australian Surfing and then compared to Track and Field’s place in Australia. The following resonates across all three sports in Australian society, that females are being represented as a ‘Female Athlete’ rather than simply ‘Athlete,’ like their male counterparts.
Firstly, analysing Australian Rules football,(AFL) and exploring current topics with the introduction of the Women’s league reveals that the AFL has a large pay gap between men and women professional AFL players. But Is the sport really doing enough to bridge that gap so women unlike men, must work alongside their professional football career in order to make a living? Recently ABC online provided statistics showing that female players are being paid 125 times less than their male counterparts. It was also made apparent in the AFLW’s annual report that an entire women’s AFL team cost less that an individual average male player.
To gain an insight, AFL mega fan Clare, was interviewed. She has this to say on the issue: ‘’ With it being such a massive thing firstly, to the women in the AFL league, I think they’re doing a fantastic job this season, with the introduction of women. However, there’s still a long way to go for women to have the same opportunities as men do.’’
With so much exposure and fans barracking for their favourite teams, it would make sense that football would be a full-time job for the female athletes, like the men? Think again. The top two players of each team will get about $25,000 for the season, and then $10,000 for high profile players, and $5,000 for everyone else, for an eight-week season. All are expected to train about nine hours per week, plus pre-season. This seems incompatible with an average male player who earns just over $300,000 (ABC.net). This essentially equates to buying an entire women’s team for the cost of a single male player.
www.instagram.com/erinphillips131 Premiership winner, Best and Fairest and mother to twins. Also plays professional basketball for Australia. But would need a second job to supplement her family if playing AFL alone.
Clare voiced her concerns on this topic by saying, ‘’As a mother of a daughter, I am very excited by the fact that women’s league has been introduced. And by the time she’s old enough, hopefully those years would have provided enough time for it to have developed and become an equal opportunity. ‘’ The problem seems to lie with broadcasting rights to women’s matches, as that’s where the big money lies. It would be expected to take a few years before the broadcasters would pay rights to show women’s footy matches, according to AFL’s general manager of game and market development, Simon Lethlean.
As long as the women are paying the same game, they deserve the rights to be paid equally. Below is what the public had to say:
When it comes to professional female surfers in Australia, there is also a divide between males and females. This begs the question, why are female athletes valued less than their male counterparts? ‘’Viewership,’’ says Scott Atheron, Surf Coach, Manly Surf School, in my group member Andrea Kovszun’s Story entitled: Sex Sells: How Female surf athletes are using social media. ‘’The value in women’s surfing comes from their lifestyle factor, I feel like they are forced to go into bikinis and lifestyle campaigns to subsidies their value as surfers.’’It’s no secret that millennials take social media very seriously. But nowadays professional athletes have a duty of care in the way they promote themselves via social media.
www.instagram.com/elliejeancoffey – Face of Billabong and Roxy Australia, but not in the top 100 surfers in the world.
Athletes use platforms such as Instagram or Facebook to boost their image and share their stories, making them more attractive to brands, sponsors and viewers. Andy makes a great note in her piece by going on to say ‘’We are left with the issue , in this social media, millennial world, if women want to cover that gap, they must be perceived, first and foremost, as athletes and not as Instagram models.’’ If sexuality is the main qualifier for popularity in women’s professional sport, rather than their physical achievements and performance it will never be seen for what it is, a professional sport.
This doesn’t apply to surfing alone. When reviewing male and female track athletes there seems to be also a notable discrepancy. The current fastest women in the world, is Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica. After winning an Olympic Games in 2012 and being the current reigning world 100m champion. For her world title race, she was reportedly paid US$60,000. In comparison to Usain Bolt, undoubtedly the world’s most successful sprinter and is number 32 on Forbes Highest-Paid Athletes list. For the same race, at the same championships as Fraser-Pryce, Bolt was paid an astounding US $120,000.
This is what the public has to say:
When discussing these surprising facts, with Track and Field guru Mike Hurst, who was a former Daily Telegraph journalist and coach of 1988 400m Mens and Womens Olympic Finalists as well as the current second fastest man in Australia, over 400m, had this to say on the issue of pay equality in Track and Field: ‘’Shelly-Ann Fraser pryce clearly hasn’t spoken up enough. I’m surprised, I thought there was parity in the IAAF World Championships.I think people need to have a voice, I don’t think track and field athletes have a voice.’’
Mike firstly gave his insight on how females are compared to male athletes in Australia by saying: ‘’Are they recognised as being great athletes in their own right? Or are they being forced to portray themselves in bikinis or whatever? I think in Australia track and field athletes are very well respected. I think popularity will come with performance. But there are some people who just don’t resonate with the media. They don’t resonate with the public.’’ To change this and move forward, Mike offered the insight that if women support their own processes, and own campaigners, they will have a much more powerful lobby, and will be able to achieve much more, like they should do in comparison to their male counterparts at the same level of competitive sport.
Just like Australian surfing, it’s been notable that Australian female track and field athletes feel the pressure that they need to over-sexualise themselves on social media, to be more attainable to potential sponsors. ‘’Followers,’’ and ‘’Likes,’’ has progressively become a trend for these women and a point of conversation, to make them feel esteemed over their competitors. This has nothing to do with performance and does not make sense. Mike also discussed this issue and whether men have this same pressure, by saying: ‘’I think it works both ways, but not in the way the women do.’’
Moving forward, in order for women to seek equality he said, ‘’There should be a professional athletes association, for Track and Field. There should be one for all sports. And there should be one for Olympians overall. He suggests it’s the athletes and the sports that have got their act together, through strong leadership and not just winging or bullying, that the future is bright for them.He commented on the new structure of the women’s Suncorp Super Netball league. ‘’I think what netball has done is fantastic. However the problem is, you put the product out there, it is not a seller’s market, it is a buyers market. If the public buy the men and not the women, the people who organize the women’s game need to have a very strong look at why it is not being marketed correctly, promoted correctly – the media presence may not be strong enough. They need to do something about it. ‘’
That is the expert opinion. In order for women’s sports, in an Australian male dominated sports society it is important that the athletes keep rallying for change and don’t remain complacent on important issues and seeking quality. They deserve to be seen as professional athletes and not just ‘’female Athletes,’’ as women at the top of their game.