Pay equality between the sexes in professional sport
Posted by Cags R on 9 March 2012 at 2:00 PM
Less coverage, less sponsorship, less interest, less pay: how is it right?
In 1968 the women machinists at Ford Dagenham went on strike in protest of pay inequality, we'd like to think that their campaign for equal pay is now the norm in modern society - but is it?
The sports which have been focussed on most frequently in the past have been sports like Golf and Tennis. These sports already have a large presense in the media and from the extra coverage have larger than average pay packets for the athletes. The prize money for the major grand-slams in tennis has, in recent years, been changed to be equal: Wimbledon changed their prize money policy in 2007 so men and women athletes received the same. This is a massive step forward when compared with the 1968 tournament when the women's prize money was £750 to the men's £2000.
This progress in tennis has not been affected in other sports however; even though golf has become one of the highest earning sports for women, there are still massive differences in the prize money - currently the LPGA are playing the HSBC Women's Champions 2012 in Singapore with a purse of $1,400,000, an impressive sum until compared to the men's PGA World Golf Championships in Miami which has a staggering $8,500,000!
In the Olympic year we are seeing higher press exposure to female athletes; perhaps it's because the ladies are the ones bringing back the gold from these events - Kelly Holmes' success at the Athens Olympics was a turning point of focus and was sealed when Rebecca Addlington emerged the people's favourite after Beijing. So this year we've had a more balanced scattering of 'up-and-coming' and 'ones-to-watch' articles.
So is it a once every 4 year privilege for women in sport? The Olympics is a brilliant stage for athletes to get media coverage, during the Olympic build up we see a far more balanced representation of the sporting world - showcasing a nation's top athletes of both genders - and the sad fact is that it's media attention that gets the cheques coming in.
Olympic athletes get the majority of their money from sponsorship, there aren't the salaried roles which you see in football, NBA, and NFL. Women's sport clubs can't afford to pay players when the clubs get no/little revenue from broadcasting games, especially in comparison to the men's coverage. US soccer was making headway in professional women's sport until this year Women's Pro Soccer had to suspend the 2012 season over a legal dispute.
No one is denying that progress has been made in women's sport; yesterday the site of the GB women's hockey team on billboard at my local train station was a refreshing change to an usually underexposed sport but to quote Deputy PM Nick Clegg in his International Women's Day message: 'We must not mistake progress for job done'.
So what can we do to change the balance and ensure equal pay for women in sport is changed from a debate into the norm?
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