Sport, politics and equality

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, December 6th, 2017 - 87 comments
Categories: gender, sport - Tags: , , , , ,

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Ok, so I know I’m rather late to the party on this but I figured that equality is timeless and it would be a pity to resist using this bully pulpit I have access to now as a vehicle to advance my pet topics.

So here goes.

Back in October, Grant Robertson copped a little bit of flak for suggesting that the world champion Black Ferns should be paid more to recognise the fact that women are people too. It set off a chorus of predictable enough responses.

In my favourite sport, [real] football, this is a debate that has been super topical this year and one I have taken a keen interest in – as everyone who loves their sport should.

In February our women’s national team captain, Abby Erceg, announced she was retiring from international football in protest at the way women are treated by our national governing body – New Zealand Football.

Her main concern was that top female athletes were being brought into a simulated professional environment, known as the Football Ferns Development Programme, without being compensated at all outside of periodic national team camps. This was leading to intense financial struggles for players due to the time commitment involved and the difficulty of getting a real job that fitted the schedule.

Unlike most domestic female players, most male players at the highest tier clubs we have in this country are getting paid, despite their amateur status and despite the fact that very few of them are anywhere near international standard given out top male players are either playing in the Australian league or plying their trade professionally overseas.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Football Ferns are ranked in the world’s top 20, while the All Whites are currently ranked outside the top 120. The Ferns are regularly going to World Cups whereas the All Whites haven’t been since 2010, and yet anecdotally the men’s national team budget is many times that of the women’s.

I blogged on this at the time of Erceg’s retirement here, here and here, and debated the issue with a lot of otherwise good football people at the time.

In response, a lot of people took great pains to argue that if women don’t draw enough spectators, attract enough sponsors and most depressingly of all spend enough money over the bar at their local clubs then they don’t deserve the same respect as men. This seems to me a flat out refusal to see the sport as a whole rather than standalone men’s game and women’s games that can and should cross-subsidise each other.

And popularity is a vicious cycle. Women’s football was effectively banned until 1971 and with little done to promote it game since then, inequalities have only been perpetuated.

When you look at a sport like tennis, where the women’s game often attracts higher TV ratings than the men and the major tournaments all offer equal prize money, there is a model that should have been emulated. Like women’s tennis, which has more finesse than the bash smash bash of the men, women’s football is arguably more entertaining to watch than the male equivalent.

Women tend to keep the ball on the deck more and there is no diving and no histrionics when refereeing calls go the wrong way. But unfortunately progress is held back by the men in charge. Men like Sepp Blatter, whose suggestion for improving the marketing of the women’s game was that they should wear tighter shorts.

But then, when all of the above is thrashed out, the goalposts eventually shift again to “LOOK, women are just different – OK? It’s nature!”

At the end of the day, the rebuttals are all just excuses and I suspect the real crux is that people perceive the pie as finite and so any increase in funding for women will take money away from men.

And one of the big obstacles is that in sports like football, decisions are overwhelmingly made by men. I was staggered to attend a meeting I was invited to at New Zealand Football HQ early this year, which was specifically called to discuss the implementation of the aforementioned Football Ferns Development Programme, only to find there was not a single woman in the room.

And I doubt football is the only sport where that would happen.

A lot of male sports administrators are well meaning, great people, who give a lot of their own time to sport for no financial reward and they are more often than not staunch supporters of women in sport in a lot of ways.

But the bottom line is women will never get a fair go in sport until they are meaningfully involved in decisions that affect them.

So I think there is a place for government intervention here.

I am not necessarily suggesting that the Black Ferns should be paid the same as the All Blacks, but in most sports the gap needs to be smaller than it is. Abby Erceg wasn’t asking for equality with the men’s professional game – that’s not possible when for example French club PSG paid an amount equivalent to the GDP of an actual country (Palau) for a player (Neymar) in the last transfer window. The appropriateness of THAT is another issue.

All Abby really wanted was a little bit more support so young Football Ferns wouldn’t run out of petrol on the way to training. For that, she got labelled as greedy and ungrateful. That’s the scale of the problem.

And if the sports’ governing bodies won’t at least try to close the gap a little bit then maybe they shouldn’t get any public funding until they do.

There have been some promising developments since Erceg’s shock retirement. The most exciting of which is the players’ union – the NZ Professional Footballers’ Association – raising an equal rights claim in collective bargaining that is supported by our best male players and will be a world first if implemented.

But in the meantime, thank you Grant Robertson for saying what you said and please keep on it.

87 comments on “Sport, politics and equality”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    [real] football

    Don’t kick it, pass it.

    The Black Ferns winning percentage is 88%. The All Blacks, 77%.

    Don’t ask about pay though.

    • Morrissey 1.1

      Don’t kick it, pass it.

      ???????

      What a ridiculous statement.

      In rugby football, kicking is the primary skill. If you don’t believe in kicking the ball, follow American football, where hardly anyone is allowed to even TOUCH the ball, leave alone kick it.

      • tracey 1.1.1

        Pretty sure OAB is alluding to the Ad a few years ago for rugby which had people calling “kick it dont pass it” and others saying

        “Pass it dont kick it”

      • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.2

        *whoosh*

        What Tracey said. And the fact that in soccer (as distinct from footy), passing is kicking.

  2. Zorb6 2

    Don’t know much about Soccer, but alot of your conclusions are very debateable.Womens Tennis having more ‘finesse’?You do realise that men play the best of 5 sets,yet women only the best of 3.It is commonly accepted that any man ranked in the top 500 would beat the top woman player in the world.Professional sport relies on sponsership,sponsership relies on viable returns.Returning to the amateur days,where the ‘love of the game’ and the satisfaction of participating were the motivators ,well,not going to happen.

    • Enzo 2.1

      You lost me at “Soccer”. 😉

      • Professor Longhair 2.1.1

        Soccer is not the [real] football, as you so arrogantly decree, it’s one of the several kinds of football that grew out of the unruly mob football games of the eighteenth and ninetheenth centuries.

      • Marcus Morris 2.1.2

        Me too

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2

      men play the best of 5 sets, yet women only the best of 3

      Yeah, because women have much less stamina than men.

      No, wait…

      Not sure what the connection between viable returns and the topic is. I’m sure you had something in mind though.

      • Zorb6 2.2.1

        Heres a hint about ‘viable returns’-pay.As for your reference to stamina,you don’t appear to have made any relevant point at all.

        • weka 2.2.1.1

          tbf, you didn’t make a point about finesse either, and instead compared implied stamina.

          • Zorb6 2.2.1.1.1

            to be even fairer,the onus on making a case for ‘finesse’,falls to Enzo.

            • Enzo 2.2.1.1.1.1

              I guess it’s subjective. I prefer to watch longer rallies and feel there is more finesse in that than a million mile an hour serve either blocked back for a smash or smashed back for a winner repeat ad infinitum. But it’s not really a crucial pillar of my argument. It’s just one aspect that might explain why women’s tennis is so marketable.

              • Tracey

                50% of most cricket or rugby audiences in NZ are women. Marketing to that audience is as profitable as focusing only on the men. A trick is being mixed.

                But mostly we need a couple of decades of women being valued as athletes to see if once that happens audiences increase.

                That Val Adams and Lydia Ko had to be far far better than any male counterpart before them before getting sponsorship and accolades speak volumes.

              • Morrissey

                You claim that men’s tennis does not have long rallies and finesse? That’s a statement almost as ridiculous, and almost as arrogant, as your refusal to accept the popular term “soccer”.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2.1.2

          The point is that if tennis matches were all ten sets long the men might struggle to beat the women, if ultra-marathons are anything to go by.

          Here’s a hint about pay: equal pay legislation.

          • Zorb6 2.2.1.2.1

            When you introduce ‘if’ and ‘might’ into a discussion of this nature you know you are on shaky ground.

            • Tracey 2.2.1.2.1.1

              And how does it change your argument that only the grand slams do men play 5 sets at other tournaments only 3 and yet those tournaments pay men more than women for 3?

              • Zorb6

                It doesn’t change it.I believe the men deserve more.

                • tracey

                  Obviously but you used this as a reason you believe men deserve more and your premise was wrong.

                  • Zorb6

                    Not at all.If you look at what I said you will know that my ‘premise’ is that the skill level of men is way,way better,than that of women.

                    • tracey

                      I did look at what you said. One of which is

                      ” You do realise that men play the best of 5 sets,yet women only the best of 3″
                      And I pointed out your factual error. Why not just admit you were wrong on that point?

                      A forehand well executed is a well executed skill. You are confusing power with skill.

                      A woman who plays a technically lerfect cover drive in cricket or overhead smash in tennis is as skilled as the male who executes it the same. One may hit the ball harder but that is not related to skill.

                    • Zorb6

                      Staying with your argument about skill and execution.If a ‘well executed’ serve of 30 k.p.h is easily returned as opposed to a serve of 100k.p.h which is not, do you seriously contend that the skill levels are equal?

                    • Tracey

                      Yes, as I answered you elsewhere. You and I are now just repeating ourselves.

                • Cinny

                  The men have had more for eons, meanwhile woman grow and nurture the next male inside their bellies, while putting their lives on hold, unselfishly.

                  What was your point again zorb, about stamina and men deserving more?

                  Go and put your life on hold zorb and grow a child and then tell me who deserves more.

                  • Zorb6

                    Nature ‘wired’ men and women,that way.Most people accept and understand that,apart from a few who retain ‘penis envy’ throughout their entire life.

                    • Cinny

                      Are you saying that females who ask for equal pay/recognition have penis envy? ROFL LMFAO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                      That’s like saying that men who are against gender equality have vaginal fear.

                    • Zorb6

                      What I said is quite clear ands needs no translation.

                    • Cinny

                      I know and I still can’t stop laughing re penis envy, because it’s the typical come back when a man has run out of excuses.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      a few who retain ‘penis envy’ throughout their entire life.

                      That sounds terrible. Will you be ok?

            • Tracey 2.2.1.2.1.2

              You realise when you make inacurate comments to support a view you are on shakey ground?

              “You do realise that men play the best of 5 sets,yet women only the best of 3”

              Only in 4 grand slams and 1 masters tournament…

              • Zorb6

                So what.Heres something for you.Men in sport do not get equal pay-i.e Kieran Reid earns more than Liam Squire,Shaun Johnson earns more than Ken Maumalo and so on.

              • Zorb6

                You are picking part of what I said in isolation to attempt to dilute my premise.’is commonly accepted that any man ranked in the top 500 would beat the top woman player in the world.’

                • tracey

                  If that is your sole reasoning then there is no point discussing this with you further because you do notunderstand the difference between skill and power

                  • Zorb6

                    ‘ because you do understand the difference between skill and power’.Too funny,I hope its not because I don’t have a vagina.

                    • tracey

                      No. It is because you are struggling to intellectually grasp the difference between “skill” and “power”.

                      Serena Williams might not beat the male world 200 because he outpowers her, it will not be because he has superior skill.

                    • Tricledrown

                      But your a twat with a 1950’s attitude.

              • Marcus Morris

                With you totally Tracey. I enjoy watching the game of either sex with equal enthusiasm. At the Grand Slams is there any differential between prize money for men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles? Just asking.

      • Tracey 2.2.2

        Thats why men carry babies… oh wait.

    • red-blooded 2.3

      “Returning to the amateur days,where the ‘love of the game’ and the satisfaction of participating were the motivators ,well,not going to happen.”

      …and yet that’s what you seem to be defending as the model for women’s football..?

      • tracey 2.3.1

        In addition until they got Gold medals most of our Olympic successes came from unpaid athletes. It is only in the last 15 years or so that financial support has resulted in winning a gold medal. Spirts are constantly in a precarious position regarding funding. Men and women. Even in some sports where there is apparently low interest in watching, the men get higher financial allocation than their female counterparts.

        Sport NZ has evened this up in recent years.

        But the attitude of many running our sports, charged with fostering sport for women and girls is still that of Zorb6. Fortunately the numbers are decreasing but there are still quite a few in the power corridors of sport in NZ

    • tracey 2.4

      Only in the 4 majors and maybe one masters tournament…

      Golf? Prizemoney is WAY lower but they play 18 holes and over 4 days…

    • mauī 2.5

      Professional sport relies on sponsership,sponsership relies on viable returns.

      Valerie Adams, Sarah Walker, Sarah Ulmer, Barbara Kendall, Irene van Dyk.

      Some examples of women who I think are much more marketable than many of their male counterparts. Providing more of a viable return to sponsors than men.

      • Tricledrown 2.5.1

        Zorb a the creep.Women only play 3 sets because men make the rules yet women can run marathons super marathon across death valley.
        Women are still portrayed as delicate and the weaker gender in many sports but in sports where women are given the same opportunity it shows this is pure mysoginy.
        Many NZ women have proven this myth wrong time and time again.

        • Zorb6 2.5.1.1

          Well peed your own pants,what evidence can you provide to back up your opinions that only men make the rules and also overturn the fact that men are as a rule physically stronger then women?

          • Tracey 2.5.1.1.1

            Is that why care workers were poorly paid? Cos tgey are weaker than men? How DO they lift and turn the male patients?

          • Tricledrown 2.5.1.1.2

            So it must be a surprise that Beatrice Feaumina was able to bench press more than any All black .
            You would not say that to any of my children wife or grandchildren.
            or my niece who played soccer association football in a boys team of 17 years old at 13 years old.
            My daughters were stronger than all the boys in their cohorts.
            Better as sports as well.

            • tracey 2.5.1.1.2.1

              He is confusing power with skill. Your comment will add to that confusion.

              • Zorb6

                The only one confused is Tracey-‘Staying with your argument about skill and execution.If a ‘well executed’ serve of 30 k.p.h is easily returned as opposed to a serve of 100k.p.h which is not, do you seriously contend that the skill levels are equal?’

                • tracey

                  Yes. The difference is power not the technical execution of the shot. Which is why men play men and women play women. Because the power advantage overrides any ability to technically execute the skill.

                  Am boarding a plane now. The circles are making me dizzy. You too I suspect.

                  • Zorb6

                    I suggest you buy a birch twig and beat yourself with that.Try just lightly at first, to get your’ technique’ right.

                    • You_Fool

                      I think Tai Chi might prove you wrong… power != technique.

                      If it helps you, most sports people (professional, serious or casual) will practice actions slowly at first then build up power. This is because the technique is the same whether you do something at 10% power or 100% power. It is easier to see where you went wrong at low power, but doesn’t mean that the 100% power means higher technique. I mean, Roger Federer hits his warm up serves not at full power for a reason right? Or is he less skillful during warm-up somehow?

                      So yes, the 30km/hr serve is just as skillful as the same serve at 100 km/hr as the technique to hit them is the same.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      power != technique.

                      Well if you want to get technical, power = speed + timing + technique.

                    • Tracey

                      Agree You Fool.

            • Zorb6 2.5.1.1.2.2

              Exceptions to the rule are certainly no surprise to me.

    • You do realise that men play the best of 5 sets,yet women only the best of 3.

      So, what you’re saying is that, in the same amount of time, people watching women’s tennis would get better value?

      • Zorb6 2.6.1

        No I’m not saying that at all.If you knew anything about tennis you would realise that a set takes how ever much time…it takes.

        • tracey 2.6.1.1

          And if you knew more about tennis you would know men only play 5 sets in the grand slams (4) and 1 other tournament which refutes your position that male tennis players get paid more cos they play 5 sets to womens 3.

  3. savenz 3

    It seems unbelievable that female players are not being paid the same as men in this day and age!

    Of course female players should be paid the same equivalent as men if male players are getting paid, despite their amateur status.

    Good luck with the equal rights claim – I’m sure it will be successful!

    • DoublePlusGood 3.1

      The women’s football team are highly ranked internationally and expected to be of professional standard. If NZF wants that to continue, they need to pay their players as pros.

      The same goes for the Black Ferns, although there isn’t professional women’s rugby yet.

      The White Ferns went backwards because NZ Cricket was far too slow to make them professional. Given that there are professional leagues overseas, not having the domestic leagues at least be semi-pro dooms NZC to having a small pool of elite players that sustain themselves by overseas contracts instead of the larger pool of pro players that other Australia, England and others have.

      • tracey 3.1.1

        And therein lies the rub. NZF ZNR AND NZC dont want them to continue and no amount of words from them overrides their actions or inactions

  4. Stephen Doyle 4

    The majority of male sports revenue comes from TV ratings. My guess is that until women’s’ sport rates as well, there will always be an excuse not to pay them equally. Having said that , it behooves the various sports governing bodies to find alternative was to fund women’s sports adequately.

    • tracey 4.1

      Interesting. When TVNZ had rugby and cricket they justified not covering minor sports cos they said people werent interested. Yet when they lost those sports to SKY they took on basketball and hockey to name 2 (and in NZ they were minor sports and the NBA was not yet big here) and hey presto people watched.

      It is dangerous to conflate “I am not interested in watching that” with “most people do not want to watch it”.

      Most of SKYs revenue used to come from subscriptions not advertising and yet…

  5. tracey 5

    Many of our most successful athletes through our history have been amateur.

    A study in the 80s show NZ produced more female workd champions and olympic and commonwealth medals than men and did it on substantially less funding. IF NZs high performance focus is on producing winners it would have, following that study piled suppirt into women athletes to extend/expand the trend.

    In the 1990s Sport NZ ( Hillary Commission as it was then) push mens and womens sports to amalgamate. With almost no exceptions the administration and decision making of womens sport was made by men in these new amalgamated Associations.

    Cricket is an example of where this form of chauvinism has almost killed the game. A report by Sarah Beaman documented this neglect. Note the the White Ferns have won a world cup. The Black Caps have not. Between now and the next World Cup in 3 years from Feb 2018 NZC has provided the white ferns with only 18 One Day Internationals. The men will probably play that many before the end of April 2018!

    Under Chris Doug Test cricket was halted for our women. Every other nation plays womens test cricket including nations who did not have a womens team when NZC canned it here. Pakistan and Sri Lanka come into that category.

    The Aussies have sailed past us in womens cricket from pay to televising to female commentators.

    TVNZ employed a female commentator the last 18 months it had cricket rights. When SKY took over that commentator applied to SKY to continue. Letters and phone calls were not returned.

    NZR needed the black ferns to get 7s accepted as a commonwealth sport and Olympic sport. It did pour money in BUT it cut womens provincial 15 competition and the team suffered in tge 15s for some years.

    The Maori, 7s, Juniors are all now called All Blacks. The women are not.

    Men routinely coach women but if a woman seeks to coach men suddenly the dressing room becomes a focus of comment. This was highlighted in tge 90s when a woman applied to coach the Auckland Cricket Team (men).

    Netball already has male umpures at international level. I believe they were selected when the silver ferns played england and australia this year?

    This is a problem that goes well beyond money. It is about the value we place on womens high level participation. Sure it gets disguised by various arguments, strength, ability, desire to officiate, administer, be on a Board but those are all smokescreens put up by people who lack the courage to say they think womens sports is lesser, nothing more than a sideshow to “real” sport.

    • savenz 5.1

      +100 – totally agree in particular ” This is a problem that goes well beyond money. It is about the value we place on womens high level participation. ”

      Maybe the answer is to go back to mens and womens being separated again and giving them the same amount of funding.

      At the same time put a quota on equal gender sports time on NZ taxpayer funded media.

      • tracey 5.1.1

        Savenz

        That is a very interesting idea.

      • Antoine 5.1.2

        The gender equality in taxpayer funded media idea is intriguing.

        (But how much sport is actually watched on public television these days?)

        • Tracey 5.1.2.1

          SKY is dying. Or dead but doesnt know it yet. What replaces it remains to be seen.

          In Oz certain sports events have to be free to air. They passed a law.

    • adam 5.2

      Have to say the Aussies are kicking us to death with women’s sport. Like you said, women’s cricket is watched, by even the most conservative.

      http://www.cricket.com.au/teams/Southern%20Stars/KOd9yvUE8EK_NXjRgeG1Pw

      The winter code over there is AFL or aussie rules, they launched a women’s competition nationally last year. They got a wage increase before they start again this year. Yes a pay rise, whilst here they argue a professional rugby game will kill the women’s game.

      http://www.afl.com.au/womens

      They even listened to the women in charge and did not race to expand the competition. Instead they are committed to build up the skill base going forward, and slowly expand the game to get the best competition. The downside in NZ is I had to watch the replays online – I’ll get one game live on AFL web site.

      That said, I’ll be supporting Purple again. http://www.fremantlefc.com.au/afl-womens

  6. Pete 6

    Some think womens sports is lesser, nothing more than a sideshow to “real” sport.

    Like some think some sports are lesser, nothing more than a sideshow to “real” sports.

    The discussion in recent months about equality prompted some increased coverage of female rugby. In doing that the inequality of coverage of sports was highlighted. The criticism simply saw more coverage of rugby. (I am a rugby person.)

    • Tricledrown 6.1

      Golf has embraced the Women’s game and marketed it to the point where it pays very well.
      It’s should be more sports take a leaf or 2 out of sports but where women are treated equally.

  7. Bill 7

    The commercialisation and corporatisation of sport was such a good idea.

    Sportspeople have been reduced to the role of mere marketing tools meant to entice punters…the shiny wrapping, the bauble or tinsel that pulls people in, and rather crucially, pulls cash out.

    I guess sport really was once about sportspeople/teams and fans – as opposed to being about products and consumers. But that was back when sport was embedded in communities and belonged to those communities; was an expression of community spirit wrapped up in pride (and sometimes) genuine philanthropy.

    Long gone.

    If business gets a better financial return from its sale pitch of “these” sportspeople than it does from “those” sportspeople, or from “this” sport as opposed to “that” sport, then the laws of financial return determine where the money and highest incomes will be found.

    • Tracey 7.1

      The inventor of the modern olympics excluding tradespeople and women.

      Ancient greeks put money into training up athletes and land and money were rewards for winning.

    • Tricledrown 7.2

      Bill if I could turn back time reality is that everything is commercialized these days.
      That’s the reality.

  8. Aaron 8

    I’ve got two daughters who play soccer/football and I can assure everyone that sexist attitudes exist from the top all the way down through coaches to the little boys who play soccer treat girls with dismissive attitudes.

    To be clear, I’m not criticising little boys here – in fact their natural honesty helps us see what their father’s attitudes are.

    In some ways this will be a difficult one to fix because sexist attitudes are endemic but hidden – but on the other hand at the junior club I’m involved in we increased our percentage of girls from 10% to 40% in the space of 5 years.

    It came about simply because a couple of fathers started to treat the girls like they mattered and the popularity just exploded amongst the girls in our area. They absolutely love playing soccer but had always been put off by the treatment they received. Now we have older girls who play and they inspire the younger girls – and the sport has very quickly become a commonly accepted option for girls around here.

    To summarise: as soon as we removed the oppressive sexism the (real) natural order quickly asserted itself.

  9. Antoine 9

    The Govt should set the rules of the game, not run onto the pitch and intervene.

    Put good pay equity legislation in place, then sportswomen can negotiate or go to court to get more pay equity. Just as in any other profession.

    A.

    • tracey 9.1

      All Sports Orgs in NZ get full or part funding from Sport NZ through lottery funding. In the 1990s a women in sport group asked the Sport NZ equivalent to tie funding to orgs to gender equity requirements.

      They decided to do it through education and coaxing…

      Nearly 30 years later…

      • Antoine 9.1.1

        I see, so the Govt should be involved in its role as the funder.

        So like for instance the NZRU… do you think it would be better for:
        (a) the Govt to direct Sport NZ to make funding conditional on NZRU putting in place some form of gender equity, or
        (b) female rugby players to take the NZRU to court to get better pay?

        I suppose ‘both’ is an option.

        A.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 9.2

      The government has set the rules of the game already.

      I suspect this is why our football team with the best winning percentage (see comment 1) is an amateur outfit: if they were employed by the NZRFU equal pay legislation would apply.

      • Antoine 9.2.1

        Oh I see, the Black Ferns are amateur! That does rather cut down on the scope for equal pay claims in court!

        (Sorry, should have read your link at #1)

        A.

  10. David Mac 10

    I ‘m reluctant to say I’d watch more women’s soccer if they wore tight skimpy shorts, but I would. When did it become wrong to feel that there is nothing more beautiful than the female form? Sorry girls, I’d be lying to express otherwise.

    Stand 2 Ferraris belly to belly, it’s Venus de Milo without arm stubs. We love the female form, I’m growing a bit tired of not feeling comfortable in saying so.

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