Shortcuts / 24 August 2023

Women’s sport funding

Over the past month, the Matildas have not just brought the country together with their incredible performances – they’ve also raised big questions about the differences in the way women’s and mens sport is funded in Australia. So in this Squiz Shortcut we take a look at why women aren’t getting a bigger slice of the pie, which codes are doing better than others, and if the Matildas might just have changed things forever.

This isn’t new, right? The funding disparity between male and female sports was an issue before the World Cup…
Yep – but the Matildas really put it on the map. Just before the start of the Women’s World Cup, the team put out a video highlighting issues like how a lot of our national women’s footballers still have to work part-time jobs to get by and how they only get a quarter of the prize money that the men do.

And their success showed there are a lot of Aussies who enjoy watching women’s football…
They sure did – their matches had more than 18 million eyeballs across the tournament. 

Haven’t they just been given more money?
Sort of… Last weekend, PM Anthony Albanese announced a $200 million investment across women’s sporting codes – not just football.

How will that be spent?
It’s going towards improving sporting facilities and equipment for girls and women. It will work like a grants scheme where local clubs and organisations bid for funding to specifically invest in female participation.

That’s something…
And the announcement was welcomed by many, but it was pointed out it’s still a tiny piece of the pie when it comes to the total funding of sports in Australia.

How so?
For example, just last year the AFL sold TV rights to Foxtel and Seven for $4.5 billion over the 7 years from 2025-2031. But when it came to this Women’s World Cup, Optus got the rights for around $60 million – and then on-sold 15 of the games to Seven to broadcast free-to-air for about $5 million.

What a steal…
It was a real bargain for a tournament that turned into the second-largest ratings smash of the century – behind Cathy Freeman’s victory run at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

If it’s so popular, why are we just starting to hear about women’s football in Australia?
Well, the sceptics will say this World Cup was a one-off in terms of viewers and that there’s just not enough sustained interest in women’s sport, so therefore female players can’t expect the same funding.

Is that true, though?
Not according to the 90,000 fans who turned up to watch Barcelona play Real Madrid in a women’s match in Spain last year or the 40,000 who turn up each week to watch Sam Kerr’s Chelsea play in the English Super League…

Why is women’s sport a bigger deal overseas?
A lot of that interest is fuelled by a proper professional broadcast, good time slots, good grounds and a big investment in the women’s game. That’s something we haven’t really seen in Australia, whether it’s for the AFLW or women’s soccer.

Or rugby…
Yep, the Wallaroos – our women’s rugby union side – came out this week with a pretty brutal takedown of Rugby Australia over their pay and conditions.

Do tell…
The players said the organisation treats the wives and girlfriends of the men’s side better than them. For example, the men’s team has at least 6 full-time coaches, but the Wallaroos coach, like the players, isn’t on a full-time contract.

Why not?
Well, the cynics say the Wallaroos aren’t as good or as watchable as the Wallabies, and so shouldn’t be treated the same way. But the counterfactual is how the Wallaroos can become better if they don’t have a full-time coach and aren’t able to commit themselves to it full-time.

What’s happening in the other sporting codes?
Well, just this week the AFL announced it would be giving the women’s comp an equal prize pool of $1.1 million for the first time.

That sounds pretty good
The players association says that while it’s a step in the right direction, it’s only just one piece of the puzzle. The big bucks come from players’ salaries, and of the AFL’s total salary pool, 92% goes to the blokes, while the women get 8%. Top-tier AFLW players earn over $70,000 a year, but dozens of AFL stars earn more than 10 times that.

And what about Olympic athletes?
They’re actually pretty even in terms of participation and funding in Australia. Women have long received equal prize money for medals – you get a $20,000 bonus for a gold medal and $10,000 for a bronze. There’s less of a divide between genders in the Olympics and more of a divide between the treatment of different sports.

So there’s still a lot of work to do…
There is, and many are hopeful that the Matildas have really created a moment here – there’s a growing sense that female athletes have been inspired to keep pushing for their sports to level the playing field.

Squiz recommends:

The insiders’ view on why Australia switched off AFLWSMH/The Age

Every goal the Matildas kicked during the 2023 World Cup – YouTube

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