The ongoing debate: Women in Sport versus Pay

As an independent sports chaplain, Jennifer Valentine-Miller has remarked from her media platform at Kick-It-Out2 that as a charity, Sports Chaplaincy also agrees that women achieving the same amount of pay as their male counterparts in sport is not the real issue. The debate has to also consider:

Identifying Quality

The treatment of women has to be considered, also poor mental health, and the lack of gender inequality.  Since the sport evolved and became professional financially; the gender equality debate began.  Women leading in sport should be included.  For example, when a woman gains a number-one world ranking in tennis, is this solely in the women’s game or is also known as the first athlete in country’s history to hold this prestigious title.

Reason for pay disparity

The huge funding disparity between male and female sport means that women have had fewer opportunities to play sport, have suffered from inadequate coaching and facilities compared with those enjoyed by men. Even when women raise more money than men, they can also be paid less. In the US, five female football players recently filed a complaint against US Soccer over wage discrimination. They are ranked number one in the world, 30 places above the men, and generated hefty revenues – but are still paid significantly less.  Serena Williams, the women’s number one tennis player – when she last played and won three of the four grand slams, it was noted that the less prestigious men’s tournaments paid far more than the women’s grand slam occasions.

The Victorian era

The Victorian society viewed sport as “inseparable from the philosophy of muscular Christianity, which defined itself against femininity and ‘softness’,”  In 1998 the Marylebone Cricket Club (1787), the custodians at Lord’s, lifted its ban in 1998 on female members.  In June 2016, the Muirfield Golf Club, one of Scotland’s most celebrated courses voted to uphold its ban on women members. However, it was finally successfully upturned in March 2017. Others institutions continue to resist.

Rio 2016

There was a 47.7 percentage of women competing as athletes, a record for a summer Games in Rio 2016 representing a significant presentation which was the rise of women in sport.  Yet the true pay equality in sport is still far away.  And it’s not just the governing bodies that need to step up and give more money to promote women’s leagues.  We also need to look at corporate sponsors.  According to a 2018 Statista report, women’s sports receive only 0.4 per cent of total sponsorship.

Root cause

When you make equal pay the central part of the conversation, the smaller things are missed. Those things are a system that harms women’s advancement in sports. The root of the problem isn’t what women are getting paid: it is the lack of foundation that they have to build from to capitalize on their talent. And when marketing is not there, it gives ammo to the usual critics who say: they don’t have enough to generate interest.

History Tells Us

There is systematic sexism in sports that leads to unequal pay, which starts with how women are marketed by their own leagues. The Women’s National Basketball Association’s marketing budget makes it difficult to build a fan base – and therefore lacks revenue to support its athletes.

Equal pay is a hot topic. Women are now the homeowners, main breadwinners, and are also the main provider for their children. Women’s role in sport is irrelevant until it starts to look at the hurdles set in place to keep women from crossing the finishing line. Female sports presenters and media representatives must also promote that their sport will not achieve the go ahead if the barriers that keep them in the trenches remain. Female representatives can talk about equal pay all we want, all of this will remain futile until investment is made to market and promote these athletes who also represent their country and their clubs brand.

As Tony Collins, author of “Sport in Capitalist Society (2013)” said “until there is a fundamental shift towards gender equality across society women in sport will always be under-paid.” – as well as being preserved in history as second-class representatives.

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