The Matildas Equal Pay Deal Is The End Of Sexist Darwinism
There is something about a sporting crowd that you don’t find anywhere else in the world.
I’ve been to sold out gigs by some of the world's biggest bands and seen Sydney Harbour packed with over a million people on New Years Eve, but nothing matches the roar of a sporting crowd.
There is a uniquely social and cultural aspect around sport. The fans get swept up in the collective effervescence of an event. You cannot deny that there's a mystique around big games, fueled by the social force of people wanting to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
We don the jersey, paint our faces, and lose our voices by screaming in agony at the close call that didn’t go our way. We turn sport into something more than just a game. As fans, we build narratives around the games and players. We become part of the action, and we buy in.
The beauty of sport doesn’t just arrive when played by men. Any true lover of sport will tell you that. We watch because we want the competition and the unpredictability that every contest brings. Regardless of who plays, the ultimate virtue that anyone can win and anyone can lose is brought into our lives through sport.
This is what has been recognised by Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) and Football Federation Australia (FFA) in their new collective bargaining agreement -- a revolutionary deal that will see an equal split of revenue between the Matildas and the Socceroos.
When equality of pay in sport is mentioned, the same old rebuttals arrive: 'men deserve more because they bring in more of a crowd'; 'men are just superior athletes'; 'women play fewer sets and women hit from closer tees'.
Ah, spare me the sexist sports Darwinism, would you?
We live in a world where sport has been seen as a male domain for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Throughout history men could be professional athletes, but until very recently, most women were told they could only give birth to one, or crown the victors.
We literally have no way of measuring all of the social and cultural boundaries that have strangled women’s sports. But we are in a position now to see what a monumental difference the removal of those boundaries will make.
The growth of women’s sports across the board over the past five years is evidence enough that when women are encouraged to play, and given competitions to play in, they will impress. Watching 2018 number one pick Nina Morrison’s first game in the AFLW last year, and 16-year-old Phoebe Litchfield dominating the WBBL over the past few weeks, I see two genuine superstars whose level of skill makes me sit up and take notice.
Much of Australia’s identity hinges off the success of its sporting heroes. And when you look at Australia’s sporting champions at this moment, this is what you see:
Ash Barty is the world number one who just keeps on winning. Sam Kerr puts the ball in the back of the net wherever she plays. Jessica Sergis has put the Rugby League world on notice with her breakout year. Steph Gilmore is a seven-time surfing world champion, and there’s hardly a week that goes by where cricketers Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy don’t break another record.
We are in what seems to be a golden era of female athletes in Australia, but it’s exciting to see what will come next with long overdue equal pay, equal recognition and equal opportunity. The success of our female athletes is something we should cling to tightly and showcase to the rest of the world.
These are some of our finest athletes, and we should be bloody proud of them.
The more we talk about these athletes, the more the interest around them grows. And the more attachment fans have to them, the more likely they'll be to go to games, and the more likely investors will be to come knocking at the door. More money means that more time can then be invested by the players to hone their craft and increase the overall quality of the game and attract more fans with their level of play.
But someone has to take the first step, and their needs to be money injected into the games to help kick start the process. Sporting federations and organisations have to take the step. Thankfully the FFA and PFA have. I hope that more will follow in their footsteps because only good can come from it.
A collective bargaining approach that is truly collective in a competitive sports market where you should be trying to appeal to as many people as possible to grow the game just makes sense.