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Aussie women on equal pay after pioneering deal

Dom Smith reviews the Australian Football Federation's new equality agreement, introduced this month

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Australia women’s national football team players will now earn the same as their male counterparts. Wednesday 6th saw a landmark deal struck – a deal where the gender pay gap between the two national teams will be cut to zero.

The chief executive of Football Federation Australia (FFA), David Gallop, feels it “is a massive step taken, to close the gender pay gap between the Socceroos and the Matildas.” The Socceroos and Matildas are nicknames for the men’s and women’s sides, respectively.

It’s a broad, extensive four-year deal – called the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The FFA’s chairman, Chris Nikou, exclaimed “football is the game for everyone, and this new CBA is another huge step toward ensuring that we live the values of equality, inclusivity and opportunity.”

The scale of impact from this agreement is captured by Nikou’s next remark. “This is truly a unique agreement. Every national team, from the Socceroos to the Matildas, down to the Youth National Teams as well as the Cerebral Palsy National Teams have been contemplated in this new CBA”.

Context to the CBA can date back to an historic event in 2015. The women’s national team cancelled a sell-out tour to the US over their pay. Many of the players argued to the FFA that their wages were so low they were actually illegal.

The agreement extends further than just pay though. The Matildas will now travel business class on international flights, a privilege previously enjoyed by only the Socceroos.

The quality of coaching the Matildas receive will also be raised to meet the standard that the Socceroos receive. Another huge reform is that the two sides will now evenly share sponsorship revenue.

However, the prize money that the two sides receive from tournament appearances is a matter decided by FIFA and other such tournament organisers. Thus, the men’s side would still likely earn more for an appearance at the FIFA World Cup than the women’s team would.

This is evidenced over the past couple of years. Australia’s men earned USD8million for their appearance at the 2018 World Cup. Their female counterparts earned just USD1million for getting further in the tournament a year later.

Despite this, the deal does pledge a greater proportion of World Cup qualification prize money to both set of players. Previously they’d only see 30% between them. The new agreement sees that rise to 40%, with players going on to share a larger-again 50% if the side reaches the knockout stages of the tournament itself.

Australia women’s midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight was keen on the deal when speaking at a press conference announcing the agreement. "As a female footballer, it's what we've always dreamed of. We always wanted to be treated equally… The new CBA shows signs of respect – we are going to be completely included. Having these facilities that the men have been exposed to will set us up for success."

Professional Footballers Australia, a union that supports both sides, has described this ground-breaking deal as “a commitment that is blind to gender”.

The FFA now joins the football associations of New Zealand and Norway in a group of three national federations to have placed female and male players on the same pay scale.

The cliché argument against equal pay for sporting males and females states that male sport is more intently followed and brings in higher revenues. Thus, the male players should earn more.

But this is a brutal nominal truth that ignores how much of a self-fulfilling prophecy this situation can, and has, become. If there is less money in the women’s game, then television and sponsorship companies will be disincentivised to get involved with female sports teams and athletes. In turn, female sport earning less exposure and publicity hinders young girls’ ability and interest to get involved. It’s a vicious cycle.

It requires strong and influential figures, companies and organisations to buck this trend and tilt the weights. The FFA have done that. The rest of the sporting world is starting to do the same, but there’s an awfully long way to go, yet.

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