Australian football has gone backwards in its bid for gender equality

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Despite this season’s new broadcast deal and collective bargaining agreement promising equality across the board, recent events have brought to light the disadvantages A-League Women’s players still face when compared to their male counterparts.

In early September last year, a five-year collective bargaining agreement was struck between Professional Footballers Australia and the Australian Professional Leagues.

The “ground-breaking” CBA, which followed the A-Leagues’ acrimonious split from Football Australia just nine months earlier, promised a greater focus on gender equality across the A-Leagues as well as the “economic security and stability” of all players, according to PFA co-chief executive Kathryn Gill.

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Now more than five months into the agreement, however, a number of its shortcomings have already been exposed, with many arising over the last seven days in the ALW.

After Adelaide United’s Fiona Worts bagged an extraordinary five-goal haul against Brisbane Roar last Sunday, a segment on 10 News First Adelaide revealed the broadcaster’s perceived novelty of Worts’ situation in having to work a shift at McDonalds the next morning.

The report was rightfully and swiftly condemned for ignoring the brutal reality of semi-professionalism experienced even at the highest levels of women’s sport across the country, as well as the minimum wage of such top flight competitions being simply not enough for most players to make ends meet.

Sure enough just three days after Worts’ story went to air, the Newcastle Jets announced the departure of goalkeeper Georgia Boric due to work commitments, with the 23-year-old ultimately falling victim to an agreement which fails to provide financial stability to the vast majority of players in the ALW.

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Under the CBA for the next five seasons, the minimum annual wage for players in the ALW currently rests at $17,055, whilst the starting wage for their A-League Men’s 16 to 19-year-old counterparts is nearly three times higher at $45,000 and increases with age.

Barely an improvement upon the $12,287 minimum ALW wage from three seasons ago, the agreement has marked a major backwards step for women’s football in Australia, particularly in consideration of the ALW’s minimum salary being equal with the ALM just two seasons ago.

In addition, this was unsurprisingly not the only time this season where the shortfalls of women’s football would continue to unravel.

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When Network 10 and and its streaming subsidiary Paramount+ secured the broadcast rights to the A-Leagues and Australian international matches last year, FA chief executive officer James Johnson claimed that the deal had installed “an enormous vote of confidence in the future direction of football in Australia”.

In reality, however, the deal filled the broadcaster with so much “confidence” that the women’s competition was shunted to the secondary channel of 10Bold for Sunday afternoon matches, whilst the men were left to enjoy their Saturday primetime slot on the main free-to-air channel.

Despite the ever-growing popularity of the Matildas, half of the national team’s matches from the AFC Women’s Asian Cup this year were once again relegated to 10Bold, including their quarter-final tie with South Korea at the Sunday time slot of 7pm. The match still managed to attract 99,000 viewers despite the broadcaster’s evident lack of priority.

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As the FA’s Head of Women’s football Sarah Walsh had assured upon the broadcast deal’s announcement, “this partnership will play a key role in helping us inspire every young Australian, regardless of their gender, ability or background”.

As the 2021/22 ALW season kicked off in the first week of December, however, the league’s new broadcaster ultimately showed their negligence towards the league’s gender neutral rebranding with a series of avoidable and unforgivable mishaps.

One even prompted Adelaide players and coaches to plead for the usage of the term “Lady Reds” to stop whilst the men’s team were still simply referred to as the “Reds”.

 

The incident is just one of the many examples of benevolent sexism which continues to plague the world of football, extending far beyond Australia.

Even in its less subtler forms, it is an issue which continues to go unnoticed by most, as evidenced earlier in the week when the six-year anniversary of a second-tier Dutch team replacing child mascots with women in lingerie was re-shared on social media.

The re-post was unsurprisingly met with laughs and casual misogyny, with barely a mention or questioning of the structural and cultural barriers which had put those women in such a position in the first place.

The two incidents immediately pose the question of how, in today’s patriarchal world, a young girl would even be “inspired” to play the game as Walsh had put, only to be treated differently than their male counterparts?

If these are the images which are suppose to inspire young girls to play the game in Australia, or anywhere in the world for that matter, then there is still a lot of work to be done.

And not just by the few that are brave enough, and ultimately fed up enough, to speak out against the continued oppression of women in the game.

Feature Image Credit: Jordan Trombetta

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Jimmy Alexander
Jimmy Alexander
Covering Sydney FC for the 2021/22 A-League season. Studying a Bachelor of Sports Media (Journalism) at Charles Sturt University.

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