Guest Column

One day female sports stars will be able to call themselves professionals

2015-07-10 17:39

Alison Visser

Gone are the days when women are relegated to the sidelines of the sports fields.

They’ve had a good run of it in the past few weeks. The Women’s Football World Cup has just ended.

Women’s cricket has been happening in the form of the ICC Women’s Championship. Unfortunately we will have to wait until mid-October for South Africa’s next fixture, against Sri Lanka in Colombo.

But Wimbledon is on the go – the women’s final is on Saturday.

On Sunday the Women’s U20 national team, Basetsana, will play Botswana in a World Cup qualifier first leg at Dobsonville Stadium. And Banyana Banyana have an Olympics qualifying encounter against Kenya next Saturday at the stadium.

Women’s tennis has been quite progressive in terms of equality – paying women the same amount as men even though they only grunt their way through three sets, instead of five. The prize money up for grabs on Saturday is £1.88 million (more than R36 million). But sadly no South African is up for the dough.

In fact, the country’s top ranking female Open player is Chani Scheepers, who currently sits at 124 in the World Tennis Association’s rankings.

But tennis seems to be where it all stops. Late last year, a question in Parliament revealed that there was no equality when it came to the salaries of South Africa’s football and cricket players.

Banyana Banyana players earned between R2 000 and R5 000 a game, while Bafana Bafana players earned R60 000 for a win and R30 000 for a draw.

The Proteas women’s team players earned between R7 000 and R10 000 a Test match, while the Proteas men’s team players earned R46 000 a Test match and earn an additional R34 000 bonus for winning a Test match.

The truth is that, while there are sports (played by men) that are popular and that are pulling in the sponsors, women’s sports, even the popular ones, are still stuck in the vicious circle of no media coverage leading to no sponsors, leading to no professionalism, leading to no wins, leading to no media coverage.

A study published in 2009, Print media coverage of women’s sport in South Africa, by Anneliese Goslin, revealed what we all suspected anyway – inequalities existed in the coverage of women’s sport in the print media.

There was “considerable under-representation and under-reporting” in the extent of coverage, type of sport reported on, length of article, number and type of photographs and gender of photographer.

Nevertheless, things are looking up, sort of.

The Proteas received more investment and partners last year and are currently second on the ICC points table, after Australia.

But the situation as a whole still reeks of the good old days, when women’s places were in the kitchen, or on the sidelines looking pretty and cheering on their men. Images of football and tennis’s “WAGS” spring to mind.

Women really shouldn’t be taking this lying down.

About 51% (or 27.64 million) of the population is female.

More women are in positions of power at big companies. These big companies are where sports find their main sponsors.

I’m thinking along the lines of Wiphold’s Wendy Luhabe, the JSE’s Nicky Newton-King, Tswelopele Productions’ Basetsana Kumalo, property queen Pam Golding, Pick n Pay’s Wendy Ackerman, Liberty Investors Wendy Appelbaum, media mogul and restaurateur Felicia Mabuza-Suttle.

There must be people – even men – with megabucks who believe in the investment of sport.

We need to start at school level; make it easy for young girls to be involved and fall in love with sport.

We need them to know that their place is on the field and they don’t need to be relegated to the sidelines if they don’t want to be there. Maybe one day they will be able to support themselves doing what they love and are best at.

We need more sponsors to enable women to follow careers in sports.

If all these pieces start to fall into place, women will soon be doing in sport what they are doing in other sectors – beating men at their own game. They just need to be given a fair chance.

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