Same sport. Same competition. The prize money? Um… And cash is not the only inequality we need to call out in sport. Glamour Magazine UK asked me to grill the decision makers on the awkward questions for women’s sport, here’s what I found…
The women’s sport Richter scale is crackling with waves of energy. Newton Investment Management sponsored the Women’s Boat Race historic move to the Tideway this year, in August the women’s FA Cup Final beams live from BBC One – at Wembley no less – and the England women’s cricket team are flourishing on their first-ever professional, six-figure contracts.
However, archaic, awkward issues remain. We made a list and took them to the people in power, asking them to explain why inequality still exists, from paltry pay cheques to sportswomen being ignored at award ceremonies.
Their answers are complex, but what shines through is our power to show broadcasters, sponsors and boardrooms that we are watching games, buying tickets and applying for roles to force that earthquake to happen ourselves.
THE QUESTION: Why do men earn more prize money in 30% of sports?
THE DEAL: Out of 35 sports that pay prize money, 25 pay equally but 10 including cricket, golf and football do not. When the men’s and women’s teams at Arsenal both won the FA Cup last year, the men’s prize money was £1.8m and the women’s only £5,000. The British Darts Organisation (BDO) men’s world champion took home £100,000 and the women’s victor £12,000. On the Surfing World Championship Tour, Gabriel Medina pocketed £62,700 and Stephanie Gilmore £37,600.
THE ANSWER: Kelly Simmons, FA Director of the National Game and Women’s Football
The men’s FA Cup attracts a much bigger television audience, crowds and commercial partners which is why the prize money is so much bigger. Last season’s FA Women’s Cup Final attracted 1.3m viewers on TV, which was a 30% increase on 2013, but this season’s men’s sixth round tie between Manchester United and Arsenal peaked at 8.9m. As we develop greater broadcast and revenue deals we can invest more into prize funds.
Jessi Miley-Dyer, World Surf League Deputy Commissioner
(Actually) we have an equal prize purse for men and women – for the 18 elite women there is $250,000 to share and the 36 men have $500,000. Because we have the different numbers, we have a different format and so, different placings that complicate the distribution of the prize purse. We have ended up with a different first place prize because the top women decided as a group to put more money into the lower placings.
Linda Ware, British Darts Organisation Executive Director
There are several reasons the main one being a lack of sponsorship for the ladies’ game. Across the board there are less female players in the game compared to men – the ratio is about 4:1 – and sadly, event organisers will always count prize money as a loss.
THE QUESTION: Since 2010, why has only 29% of BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) nominees been female?
THE DEAL: The BBC ignored women for its SPOTY top-10 shortlist in 2011, its all-male panel blanking standout performances from four-time Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington and Rebecca Adlington’s World Swimming Championship gold. Since then, only 12 nominees (out of 42) have been female.
THE ANSWER: Carl Doran, Executive Editor of SPOTY
Prior to 2012 approximately 30 sports editors of the national press – all male – each submitted their own shortlists and the votes were added up to create one overall list.
However in 2011 this system generated an all-male shortlist, which precipitated a public debate about the shortlisting system and overall representation of women’s sport.
In 2012, we decided to change the shortlisting system. Nominations are (now) decided by a 12 person panel, with equal representation from men and women. The panel is chaired by the BBC’s Director of Sport, Barbara Slater and comprises former nominees, journalists, broadcasters, pan-sports bodies as well as two other BBC Sport senior management. This system has been in place since 2012, and since then we have seen 21 males and 11 females nominated.
THE QUESTION: Why do nearly half of National Governing Bodies (NGBs) in sport have less than 25% women on the board?
THE DEAL: Sport England and UK Sport demand the 46 sports NGBs they fund have at least 25% of female board leadership by 2017. FIFA, with three out of 28 female board members, and the International Tennis Federation with none at all, set a poor global precedent.
THE ANSWER: Jennie Price, Sport England CEO
If you are a male dominated sport like football, cricket or rugby and your board is only made up of representatives from your local clubs and committees, very few women will come through. But if you appoint independent people, from a marketing or accountancy background for example, many more women can apply.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Two of the three NGBs who had no women on their boards (British Cycling and Wheelchair Rugby) have put that right over the last few months. In March I was speaking at an event where over 100 highly-skilled and qualified women, interested in jobs in sport, came together to talk about the opportunities. So the talent is clearly there – sports just need to open their eyes to it.
Francesco Ricci Bitti, International Tennis Federation President
This is the first time in the 16 years of my presidency that there has not been a woman on the ITF Board of Directors. I strongly support the principle that there should be gender diversity, especially for a sport where men and women play an equal role.
However, for the time being, our rules require only regional diversity. The ITF Governance Committee is currently looking into having more women serve on the board. A greater issue is to get more women to participate in governance on a local and national basis so that there are more potential candidates for the board.
THE QUESTION: Why is only 7% of sports media coverage devoted to women’s sport?
THE DEAL: It’s even worse for newspapers – with only 2%. The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation statistics oddly clash with over 60% of sports fans who would like to see more women’s sport on television. Sadly, there were fewer stories about sportswomen a year after the Olympics than before, and men’s sport stories outnumber women’s by 20 to one.
THE ANSWER: Alison Kervin, Mail on Sunday Sports Editor
I’d love a situation in which there was equal coverage. The truth, though, is that the coverage will always reflect the status quo. Women don’t play, watch, coach, referee or support women’s clubs in anything like the numbers that men support men’s clubs. Every four years there’s a blitz of female friendly coverage at The Olympics and to a lesser extent at Wimbledon, but it’s the week-in, week-out sport – the football and rugby – that forms part of the cultural landscape and defines newspaper coverage.
When it comes to football, the Premier League is huge. Crowds at men’s matches are 124 times as large as those watching women’s matches. Far more women watch men’s football than watch women’s football. Circulation of the Mail on Sunday goes up by tens of thousands on Premier League weekends – it’s a really big deal.
When did you last watch a women’s sports event? Be honest. The media isn’t going to cover sport that the public displays no interest in. If women’s football matches were sell-outs then they’d be covered and barriers would be broken down. I think that women need to realise the power they have. Get out there and support women’s sport – it’s the only way things will change.
THE QUESTION: Why is there no women’s Tour de France?
THE DEAL: Tour de France Feminin has been held on and off since 1984, and Ironman legend Chrissie Wellington and pro-cyclists Emma Pooley, Marianne Vos and Kathryn Bertine have campaigned successfully for its return in 2015. However, ‘La Course’ is only a one-day event and not a three-week grand tour like the men’s.
THE ANSWER: Bob Howden, British Cycling President
Staging an international three-week stage race is a major operation and there is no single reason why there is currently no three-week Tour de France for women, but it is a question that the ASO (race organisers of the men’s Tour de France) and the UCI (cycling’s world governing body) are looking to resolve.
The challenge organisers have faced in the past is a commercial one in terms of securing the necessary sponsorship and broadcast returns for women’s events.
The UCI are making more enlightened noises these days and hopefully the combination of growing momentum and identity will give oxygen to the process of attracting sponsors, so that we can see this happen soon.
THE QUESTION: Why is only 0.5% of commercial investment allocated to women’s sport?
THE DEAL: Last year, the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final became the most tweeted about event on the planet, but women’s sport accounted for only 0.5% of all UK sports sponsorship. One of the landmark investments in women’s sport, a £450,000 five-year deal brokered with Continental for the FA Women’s Superleague is put into perspective by the biggest sponsor of the men’s game – The Football League engineered a £27.5m five-year deal with SkyBet.
THE ANSWER: Jonathan Cockcroft, commercial director England Hockey
Sponsors often don’t see the value in women’s sport. In fairness, this is partly because there is often less value as these sports reach fewer people, but decision-makers tend to err towards more tried and tested properties. We need more sponsors like Investec (£2.2m for England Hockey) with the vision and imagination to see beyond the most basic figures.
If readers want to make a difference, they need to watch women’s sport when it’s on TV to evidence to broadcasters that there is a healthy audience, and buy tickets to improve the product for all stakeholders and allow the sports to reinvest this income back into the sport.
Sarah Healey, Director General for Department of Culture, Media and Sport
This is down to a historic lack of exposure of women’s sport in the media. When women’s sport is more visible it can gets on the radar of businesses that will be more willing to invest.
The Sports Minister Helen Grant has the bosses of Sky Sports News, BT Sport and BBC Sport on her Women’s Sport Advisory Board, and we have encouraged those channels to improve their women’s sport coverage and they have all stepped up.
Sport England is advising Sports NGBs on commercial plans and how to pitch to businesses better. They have also commissioned detailed research into the women’s sport sponsorship market to help governing bodies sell women’s sport more effectively.