Australia is stereotyped as a patriarchal society. It’s loud, proud and masculine. The biggest sports in this country are Aussie Rules Football and Rugby, both of which involve hard hits, occasional scuffles and more testosterone than you’ll find in the free-weights section of a city gym.
But female sport is also on the rise in this country and it’s changing how the rest of the world perceives sport.
Female Sport in Australia
In 1984 the Australian government signed the Sex Discrimination Act which made it illegal for anyone to be discriminated because of their sex. This opened up the doors for women to join male sports clubs, playing cricket, soccer and other popular sports at an amateur level.
It also gave female players the confidence and the belief they needed to establish themselves at an amateur level, which triggered an increase in the number of female cricket clubs, soccer clubs and rugby clubs.
Today there are over 50 female cricket clubs across Australia. Not only are more players getting involved, but the media is also paying more attention. You can even find odds on women’s cricket on the biggest betting sites. And when you have the gambling industry on your side, then big money and big sponsorship is never too far away.
Netball is one of the most popular sports for females in Australia. Players in the biggest teams can earn more than $100,000 a year, which puts them on par with male basketball players and means they earn more than many male rugby league and rugby union players.
Soccer is still lagging behind, but the Aussie female soccer team is one of the best in the world and while the money is not there, the interest is. The most recent Women’s Soccer World cup broke records to become the most watched Women’s World Cup ever. Over 750 million people tuned in from around the world, and it helped to introduce many to the game. This is still someway away from the 3 billion+ that tune into the male World Cup, but it’s a good start. This increased interest put more money in the pockets of each player, and also gave them access to lucrative sponsorship deals that were just not accessible before.
The same happened to the Women’s Rugby World cup, which generated a lot of interest here in Australia and in neighboring New Zealand. Add to that the increased interest in female gymnastics, netball, cricket, wrestling and boxing (for the first time ever, female professional boxers can earn enough to live on and are on the same bill as big male fighters) and it’s fair to say that things are changing.
A Long Way to Go
Of course, while the future is bright, there is still work to be done. Female athletes have struggled to earn as much as males through sponsorship, with some athletes losing sponsors even after they have won gold medals. Add to this the lack of respect that much of the male population has for it and it’s clear that a lot of work needs to be done.
But the signs are positive and if things continue at the rate they are at then we could see a very different sporting landscape in a decade from now. At best, female sport will be on par with male sport and the athletes, owners and managers will be earning the same as their male counterparts. At worst the industry will be more lucrative and therefore more tempting for the next generation of female athletes.
Either way, a change is coming and it’s a change that can only be for the better.