Men sponsor what they know and watch

 Banyana Banyana
Banyana Banyana

Here we go again. Another year, another international women’s day and another chance to point out the structural sexism all around us.

Just this week there’s been a wonderful example – our winning national women’s football team, Banyana Banyana.

I mention their gender only as it is that which holds them back and makes getting sponsorship so very difficult.

We’ve been here before, but you’d think with the additional coverage they have been getting, the fact that in less than 100 days they will represent South Africa at the Fifa World Cup in France, and that they have proved themselves to be better in every way than their male counterparts, getting sponsorships would be a cinch.

Not so. You will find that when it comes to sponsorships for sports it is male sports that are richest and of those it is traditionally white male sports that are richest.

Why? Simple. All the companies that sponsor sports are run by white guys who watch them.

After all, as City Press reported last year in the Wealth Index, representation of women in directorships in the top-200 listed companies is 4% and black people is 17.5%.

So, the majority of well-heeled decision makers are white guys.

The SA rugby sponsors page is festooned with the logos of the country’s biggest companies – all run by white guys. Ditto Cricket SA. Look them up if you think I am exaggerating.

In fact, last year the women’s cricket team lost a long-term sponsor, this as they were riding a wave of popularity. That sponsor kept on their commitment to the men, however.

Read: The good and the great of 2018

This is not about sport – in fact, I don’t watch any sport regularly except the Wimbledon finals (when I remember) and the Olympic gymnastics every four years.

However, it is glaringly obvious to anyone looking at how something as seemingly simple as sports sponsorship is driven along gender lines – not based on inclusion and nation-building, which is often the sales pitch.

People with power (read corporate CEOs) give money to what they know.

Women’s sports – where the women aren’t dressed in frilly little dresses and don’t fulfil the gender role expected of them – are unlikely to get their hands on the lion’s share of the cash – until the demographics at the top change or the fellows at the top do some work on their innate biases.

One way to sort the women from the men might be, as the Daily Maverick reported, ANC MP Beverley Abrahams’ suggestion that Banyana and Bafana play a match – but let’s make it for the sponsorship pot.

Banyana are number three in Africa, while Bafana are number 14. Where’d you put your money?

Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala

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