Play Like a Girl; Paid Like an Amateur

There’s been a question rattling through my head of recent times, following the announcement of the women’s national AFL competition, and the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League in the past 12 months. That question is merely, why do we not pay as much attention to valid forms of female professional sport?

Curiously, that question extends to the premise that we need to pay women considerably less for following the path of a professional athlete than we do with their male counterparts.

Of course, if we’re talking dollars and cents, the answer is that women’s sport doesn’t attract the same amount of sponsorship dollars as men’s sport; but then again, there still lingers the question: why?

From the outside looking in, it appears that as a society that we completely devalue the realm of female professional sport. In a world where were are constantly playing catch-up on the dark ages where men brought home the bacon and women cooked it and cleaned up afterwards, it feels that the intricacies of the modern world just aren’t being paid enough attention.

Professional sport for females is nothing new; Australia has posed long-term success in athletics, field hockey, swimming, golf and pro surfing just to name a few, but it is within the sports that are earmarked as ‘male-dominated’ or perceived as ‘men only’ where problems continue to present themselves.

First is the problem in the above perception. With this at play, it is no surprise that women aren’t valued in these sports. They’re (apparently) only for men, so women that play it mustn’t be serious. Right? Wrong.

Absolutely anybody that pursues a career in professional sports: male; female; straight; gay; African; Asian; European – they are all serious about it – mark my words. It takes constant hard work and determination to gain success in an industry that is largely dog-eat-dog. Most athletes start with next to nothing, and have to build their profiles through endorsements and public appearances before they even begin to make a living out of their performances on the field – and yes, this is typical of MALE sportspeople; so let’s take that difficulty and multiply it for women.

The main idea of writing this article is to pose the question; “Why do we not hold female sport in the same regard as male sport?”

It is not uncommon for a talented female athlete to be trained-up in multiple sports, and playing multiple sports, just so that they can make some sort of a living off their chosen career. The most recent example of such being professional cricketer and soccer player, Ellyse Perry, who has successfully represented her country in both sports at the highest level.

I can’t see any valid reason why we should be treating the two any differently. Sportspeople are sportspeople. They undergo the same training, the same setbacks, the same grueling schedules to attain the best possible results for themselves, and – if relevant – their teams or their countries.

Luckily enough, in 2015, the Victorian Athletic League, Stawell Athletic Club and, major sponsor Woolworths, eventually agreed, and presented equal prize money for both the men’s 120m Gift and Women’s 120m Gift; the richest foot-races in Australia.

I feel a change is afoot, and may have been led by the aforementioned announcements of national professional leagues, however, until we are seeing women sportspeople getting equal recognition, admiration, coverage and – most importantly – equal PAY; then it is very hard to take these steps towards professional female sport in this country seriously.

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