It’s common knowledge that women in sport don’t get the same treatment as their male counterparts. This spans from pay to coverage and support, but gradually over the years, people are coming to realise and appreciate our female super sports stars. We saw an increase in popularity of the England women’s football team over the summer, and this has crossed over to other sports. So, it’s great to hear that the England women’s rugby league players are going to be paid for the first time in the World Cup Nines.
Opportunities for equal pay
For the first time, the England women’s rugby league players will receive pay that’s equal to their male counterparts. Unheard of, right? Not this time around. The 16-strong squad is one of four nations to receive participation fees at the tournament which takes place in Sydney on October 18 – 19. But is it all as it seems? Not quite. The players won’t receive payment over the two fixtures in Papua New Guinea, but the Rugby Football League will fully fund their travel, accommodation and kit. It’s also got the backing of Sport England in its quest to promote women’s sports, especially as we get closer towards the 2021 World Cup, which happens to coincide with the men’s competition.
There will also be prize money to the winners and runners-up at the World Cup Nines scheduled for later this month, but it will be different from the men’s competition. It’s a small step, but it’s still a positive one. Especially when you consider that the team is made up of amateur players who still hold down full-time jobs as well as playing rugby.
Hear them roar
The Lionesses made the UK proud during the Women’s World Cup football tournament in France this year. For a change, they made the back pages of the newspapers, got the coverage they deserved and earned a load of new supporters and followers. But when it comes to payments, it still falls massively short to the men’s World Cup. In the last men’s World Cup, the total prize money was £315 million. What about women’s football? It was £24 million, less than one-tenth of what the men got. No wonder that when the US claimed the trophy, the stadium roared into a chant of “equal pay, equal pay!”.
It seems big money is really at the big play-offs and competitions, both for men and women. In the men’s rugby league game, it’s the Super League which makes the big bucks. St Helens are going for glory against the Salford Red Devils in the play-off final, and are odds-on favourites to win at 20/83. However, even the losers will walk away with decent prize money.
But despite a particular sport rising to prominence, there is always a divide in pay when it comes to genders. Tennis, which has had female superstars for years, still suffers from a noticeable gap. In 2007, the four major grand slams all gave equal prize money to the male and female champions, but behind the scenes, there still lies a huge chasm, with 71% of men in the top 100 still earning more than their female equivalents. The gap may be getting closer, but it’s nowhere near sealed.
Paying the way for the future
What can we expect to see in the future? Certainly, women’s sport has been growing in popularity. Look back at the Great British gold medal winners at the 2012 Olympics and the media frenzy that surrounded it, along with an increased uptake of athletic classes. The success of the women’s football team has only gone on to take this one step further, even though it has been seven years since the big UK event. Football was a great example as it gave the England team a lot of media exposure and brought about the conversations of the gender pay gap.
However, soon after the tournament ended, it went back to business as usual with little coverage about the Women’s Super League.
It’s been noted by some male sports stars (we’re looking at you Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic) that men should earn more because they attract more people. This is despite the US Open women’s final gaining more attention than the men’s! Hmm.
It can also be argued that women are much better role models than their male counterparts too. Look at any top club footballer and their life of luxury is broadcast all over the place. Contrast that to a female Rugby League player who works full time and still plays professionally. If you work hard, you deserve the pay. And nobody is working harder than our female sports stars.