The Inequality in Sport

This month we take a look at the inequality of sport, but before we do we want to take a look at what has happened in the team sport world this month.

During the month of August, we have seen women’s sport come to the fore once again, firstly with the Netball World Cup and then the Women’s Football World Cup. In both of these events, the England teams reached the final, sadly for both they ended up as runners-up. In the netball world, Australia won out, while in the football world, the Spanish lifted the trophy.

Why, are we focussing on this aspect of the sport world this month?

The simple answer is because we wanted to explore the inequalities that exists between men and women. Sport is one area where this can be seen so clearly.

Before we look at the inequalities that exist, we want to firstly say to both the Roses (Netball) and the Lionesses (Football) that we are proud of their achievements this summer, and we look forward to seeing what they can achieve in the months and years ahead. If you are a keen follower of either or both of these sports, you will know that both of our English sides made the final of their respective World Cup for the first time. This is an achievement to be celebrated and marked, even though we know that the ladies involved will be gutted to have not lifted the trophy. Once the emotions die down, we are sure that they will all be proud of their achievements.

History of Women’s football

Did you know that in 1921 the English Football association (FA), followed closely by the Welsh and Scottish associations banned the playing of football by women. The English FA stated, ‘the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and should not be encouraged’. It is amazing to think that this attitude existed so widely back then, although even now in this day there are still men who think that women can’t play ‘the beautiful game.’ This attitude is gradually changing, and that is in no small way to the success of the Lionesses in recent tournaments, as well as the emergence of the Women’s Super League (WSL).

The ban on women playing football was lifted by the FA in 1970, ending almost 50 years of excluding people from playing the game, just because of their gender. Throughout the whole of the ban, the men were still able to play the game. This just highlights the inequality of 1 game for half a century. But it even has affects today with attitudes by some to the women and the women’s game.

The difference between the men’s and Women’s games

If we look at the top divisions of football in England, and we will see that the WSL only became a fully professional league at the start of the 2018/19 season. Contrast that to the men’s game who became professional way back in 1885, with a professional league starting in 1888. Not only were men professional in the game much earlier than the women, but the men have also never experienced a total ban by their association.

Next let’s take a look at the wages experienced by the 2 different genders in this sport. The highest paid woman in English football is reportedly Australian Sam Kerr who plays her football for Chelsea. It is reported that Sam earns about £8,10.00 per week (£417,000 per year). Let’s compare that to the highest player in the Premier League who is Kevin De Bruyne playing his football at Manchester City, where he is said to earn £400,000 per week, which equates to roughly £20,800,000 per year.

What this shows us is that a women’s football player will earn in a year what a man earns in a week. How is this right or fair?

Wage inconsistencies

Not to quantify or justify the difference in salaries for the 2 genders, we thought however we would have a look attendance at a game during the last season, the men saw an average attendance of 73,798 compared to that of the women whose highest attendance was 47,367, but only the highest average of 16,976. All this shows really is that the ban on the women’s game has stunted the viewership and reduced the interest of the wider population in the game.

Does this justify the difference in salary? When you think that both genders play the same game, with the same rules, same pitch etc, I would have to say that no it doesn’t justify it, but it shows where the lack of money comes from.

We have focused a lot on football, so lets now have a look at salaries and winning fees in tennis. It is good news, as each of the 4 grand slams:

  • The Australian Open,
  • French Open,
  • Wimbledon, and
  • The US Open,

Provide the same prize money for the winner of the men and women’s titles. The first time that this happened was at the US Open in 1973 with the last of the big 4, Wimbledon, to follow suit in 2007.

So, we have seen differences in the men’s and women’s games as well as parity in pay in another sport, which shows that progress is being made, but not necessarily quick enough.

Separating Sport by sexes

Finally, lets have a look at whether separating sports by sex makes sense. There are several thoughts by researchers and ex-athletes who believe that the separation of the sexes for sport is actually archaic and out-dated. Some have noted that the segregation suggests that boys are inherently stronger than girls. It has been suggested that the relationship between sex and athletic ability is not as cut and dried as it would be suggested by the separation in sport.

One study in Norway actually found no innate sex difference when it came to youth-football technical skills. The report suggests that any differences they did find were down to socialisation and not actually biology.

Many people believe that the segregation of the sexes is to prevent harm to women and girls, this whole idea is drummed into the nations psyche even from school where PE lessons are segregated. Many people are now advocating for a more integrated and inclusive approach. In one article, Tennis legend, Billie Jean King says:

‘If the skill, size and strength of any participant, female or male,
compared to others playing on the team creates the
potential of a hazardous environment,
participation may be limited on the basis of these factors,
rather than the sex of the participant.’

What Billie-Jean is really saying here is that, rather than selecting players on their gender, it might be better to select players by their physical abilities, size, and strength.

Through this article we have taken a look at the inequalities in the world of sport, we have looked at the finances and attendances in football, we have looked at other sports as well as looking at what the thought process is in the world around the segregation of the sexes.

Moving forward, and returning to where we began this month’s article, we can’t wait to watch what happens with regards to the Women’s teams of the Home Nations (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) in their relevant sport competencies in the months and years ahead.

Congratulations to
England Netball and England Women’s Football teams
on their adventures in their respective
World Cups this month!

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