How successful do female athletes need to be?
Dual international cricketer and footballer Ellyse Perry signs with Sydney FC. Photo: Brendan Esposito
In 1999 when I returned to Sydney Morning Herald sport, the Matildas had just produced the now infamous nude calendar to raise badly needed funds. Some things have changed in those 13 years: they would never strip off like that now. And some things have not: the funding situation remains little changed.
And that bothers me, because the funding situation should have been resolved long ago. And because Australia has a women’s team that is now the ninth best in the world (and in football that world is very big) it just shouldn’t be the case.
Alessandro del Piero’s $4 million signing by Sydney FC is a massive boost for domestic men’s football in Australia.
But when I raised the idea on Twitter of the W-League chasing Japanese superstar Homare Sawa or Brazilian legend Marta - two of the biggest names in women’s football – I was told by experts they would be out of the league’s price range.
Try this: Del Piero’s salary roughly equates to $70,000 a week. If 20 members of a W-League squad were paid $5000 a year (and I am sure that is more than most of them get), they would earn a total of $100,000. The entire squad, for the entire year. It is not to say Del Piero isn’t worth it. He is worth every cent if he can draw a crowd and raise football’s profile in Sydney.
News of Del Piero’s signing dwarfed two important women’s stories on Wednesday. One, that Sydney FC had signed Ellyse Perry to their W-League team and that coach Alen Stajcic was happy to work with Cricket NSW to allow her to play both sports. The other was that the Matildas squad for their tour of the US had been announced.
The Perry story ran on smh.com.au and was well-read, but it was not in the ballpark of the international audience the Del Piero story generated.
I was asked this week by a journalism student how decisions were made as to what sport was published in the newspaper. And simply, while people want to watch and read about men’s sport more than women’s, it will always dominate newspaper pages. Furthermore, it is not the media’s job to promote women’s sport, but the job of the sports themselves. It is the media’s job to find good stories, whether they be about men or women.
But none of that is any excuse for the disparity in funding and pay between men’s and women’s sport.
Incoming Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop will be pestered by many people with pressing agendas when he takes his new role. He will do well to remember that he runs a sport which is played by both sexes and, at national level, the women’s achievements exceed the men’s.
The Matildas play Haiti and the Olympic champion US team next week. They are one of the world’s most sought-after teams for friendlies, having also played against world champions Japan before the Olympics.
They achieved that status by winning the Asian Cup. They achieved that status by producing never-say-die football. They achieved that status by being honest and direct. Their open discussions about professionalism and commitment to training as they gear up for a serious tilt at the 2015 and 2019 women’s world cups should not be thwarted by PR types intent on presenting a pretty image. These issues are at the heart of improved recognition and, hopefully, one day their remuneration. But equality for these women ultimately rests with you, Mr Gallop.
This is my last regular column for Daily Life. From Monday I join the Community (reader engagement) team. Get to a game this summer.