Bridging the gap
Austalia's striker Kyah Simon celebrates with teammates Caitlin Foord and Kim Carroll after scoring the 1-1 goal during the Australia vs Norway match of the FIFA Women's Football World Cup in 2011.
A lot of women's sport today is described as semi-professional. Which is really just a convenient way to explain part-time wages.
The attitudes, fitness and training of our elite sportswomen are anything but semi-professional. It's a fulltime job just keeping in the right shape to play at the top level, let alone attending all training sessions while trying to hold down an outside job. Coaches expect women to be on time for training every time - never mind if their boss in their "professional" job expects them to finish their shift.
So how will our sportswomen bridge the gap from semi-professionalism to professionalism in coming years?
Let’s start with their wages. If you’re a gold-medal/major championship winning superstar in an individual sport, the sky is the limit. If you’re a very good player in a domestic and national team, it’s around $20,000-40,000. If you’re a soccer player and can add an overseas contract, you can double that.
Now if you’re 20 and live at home that's a fortune. But if you’re 30 and have a mortgage or rent to pay it doesn’t go far.
So how will our women get a wage which reflects their professionalism? I’ve written this before but until women support women playing sport, revenue will not rise and athletes will not get paid properly.
That’s because it is all about revenue. AFL players are some of the best paid in Australia because the governing body can sell TV right for $1.2 billion. Netball, basketball, women's football and cricket are broadcast - but billions do not change hands.
In December I watched Sydney FC women play Perth Glory at Leichhardt Oval, without doubt one of the most pleasant sports grounds in the city. It was a late afternoon match, there were about eight Matildas players on the park and the price of adult admission was $10. Eleven goals were scored - all by Sydney – so if you were a Sky Blue fan it was a pretty good night.
The trouble was there was only about 700 Sky Blue fans there.
My view is that netball will attain professionalism first because it gets the most bums on seats, looks great on television because of its pace, and has the most visible sponsors.
But it also requires discipline 365 days a year by its participants. One kilo on the hips decreases a player's mobility and her chances of selection very quickly.
Yet the trans-Tasman competition’s $262,000 salary cap for a 12-player roster hasn’t risen in years.
Maybe it is time it did.