Chapter 4 - Elite Participation
Australians have continued to excel in elite sporting
performance in the international context as a result of focussed investment by
successive governments. This investment
recognises that elite sport is essential to the Australian sport and recreation
system as it has three roles: assisting athletes realise their full potential;
providing inspirational role models for existing and future participation; and
evoking local, regional and national identity and pride.
For Australia to perform well at world championship
events and major international sporting competitions such as the Olympics,
Paralympics and Commonwealth Games, a high level of organisation is required to
identify, nurture, support and develop talented athletes. This commitment
starts with Australia's
extraordinary community base of volunteers and enthusiasts working within Australia's
community sports organisations.
The ability for an athlete to achieve success at an
international level is based on the egalitarian principal that dedication,
ambition and talent will determine their level of success, rather than
socio-economic status, geographic location or gender etc.
4.3However, this inquiry has confirmed
the ongoing reality that there are many differences between male and female
elite sports people, regardless of the sport they play.
This chapter discusses problems in the recruitment and
retention of elite sportswomen, including levels of remuneration and limited
career paths, and the significant problems these pose for athletes in pursuing
a career at the elite level in their chosen sport. The chapter also discusses
issues related to the financial status and viability of many national league
competitions and the opportunities and barriers for national team members and
competitors in international competition.
Recruitment and retention
Women's sports report problems in the recruitment and
retention of female elite athletes. As discussed in chapter 3, evidence
indicates that many girls drop out of sport in their mid teens and this factor
poses problems in providing a continuing player base for many sports. Sports
also face difficulties retaining players who have made it to the elite level due
to the challenge females face in earning a living and developing a career path while
participating in national and international competition.
One possible explanation or factor is the lack of
career paths so that potential sportswomen are not able to reach their full
potential. One witness noted that:
[a] reason that these young women drop out is that for young
women there is no full-time professional career path as an athlete in a team
outlined some of the issues with retaining people in the sport, particularly
later in their careers:
ACTING CHAIR—Have many of them stayed with the sport?
of them have, but not as many as we would have liked. They were obviously a
very high-achieving group of people and so logic would suggest that they would
be high achieving if they stayed in the sport in an administrative or
particularly a coaching capacity. I said before that hockey players are not
very well paid. There are two or three issues with those players, once they
finish playing. Firstly, after training for all that time and committing
themselves to competition for three months of the year, many of them were tired
of the sport and wanted a break. Many of them wanted to start a family and many
of them had not had the opportunity to start a career in a meaningful way and
needed to establish themselves. The latter applies to men’s hockey as well. In
particular, there was the issue of starting a family; they retire from hockey
at 30 or 33, and that became an issue for us.
Big V Basketball stated that of the 465 athletes who
competed in its elite competition in 2002, only 82 are still regularly involved
in competition. A large number of players who entered the league between 17-21
years of age are leaving the league by the time they are aged 22.
The Football Federation Australia (FFA) also commented
on the 'massive' drop-off rate in female soccer which is common in all female
sports – 'the challenge for us is converting [grassroots participation] into a
league and then into a highly competitive national team'. Cricket Australia
noted that retention of elite female athletes is difficult as female cricket in
not professional. This means female athletes must also work or study which
poses challenges with regard to training and competition.
Submissions pointed to a number of strategies to retain
female competitors in elite competition. These include:
- Provide improved remuneration and other
financial benefits, including scholarships;
- Provide female athletes with access to quality facilities and coaching
- Better assist with family issues and work-life
- Provide funding for elite programs in regional
areas to encourage greater retention of athletes from those areas.
Submissions noted that a major problem in retaining
female athletes occurs when female athletes start a family. In most, but not
all cases, a male athlete continues his career unimpeded after the birth of a
child in the family. A female athlete, on the other hand, either retires or
continues on with her sport, but with enormous stresses of juggling child care
and training and competition commitments. The SA Premier's Council for Women
stated that the numbers of women that this affects is increasing, as the
average age of athletes competing at the highest level is increasing.
The Australian Sports Commission and sporting
organisations have a number of initiatives to assist with the retention of
female athletes. The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) provides a program for
both male and female athletes –the ASPIRE Career Assistance for Olympians
program. Under this program athletes are assisted to find employment which
provides flexible work practices so that athletes can embark on a career
without jeopardising their athletic goals. All athletes regardless of gender
also have access to the Olympic Solidarity Grants which makes scholarships
available to assist with training programs.
The ASC programs are discussed later in the chapter.
Women athletes earn far less than men when playing in a
national league, whether comparing women participating in an all female league
(like netball) with men participating in a male-dominated league (such as
rugby), or whether one is considering a sport with national leagues for both
men and women (like football).
...for young women there is no full-time professional career path
as an athlete in a team sport. Little girls write to me and say that when they
grow up they want to be a professional netballer. I am tempted to write back, ‘Me
too.’...On a rough count, there are over 3,000 full-time jobs for men as athletes
in team sport in Australia.
There is not one single job for women in that role.
Submissions noted that the remuneration of elite women
athletes is generally insufficient to allow athletes to compete on a full-time
basis. One witness noted that:
It is frustrating, particularly when you see what the
footballers earn. By the same token, you cannot begrudge them for what they
earn because they are part of a marketplace that allows them to earn that.
Obviously their sports are doing something well. It is frustrating not because
we all want to grow rich out of our sport—if I wanted to do that, I am playing
the wrong sport—but because it would be great to have the time to concentrate
In relation to netball, a 2005 survey conducted by the
Australian Netball Players' Association (ANPA) and the Australian Workers'
Union (AWU) found that members of ANPA do not receive sufficient amounts of
remuneration to play their sport on a full-time basis with most having to rely
on supplementary income.
The survey found that:
- 83.2 per cent of respondents who
played in the Commonwealth Bank Trophy (CBT) in 2005 earned less than $4000
with the average being approximately $2000, while some earned nothing.
- All players (except those at the Australian
Institute of Sport) were responsible for paying any costs associated with an
- 84.2 per cent of respondents
committed more than 25 hours per week to either their other job or education
and 58.4 per cent committed more than 38 hours per week.
- 67.3 per cent of respondents had or
were completing a tertiary qualification, 12.9 per cent were or had completed a
TAFE qualification and 18.8 per cent were completing secondary schooling.
- Respondents engaged in full-time work
accounted for 41.6 per cent of those surveyed, 14.9 per cent were employed
part-time and 37.6 per cent were casual employees.
Netball Australia noted that while netball is the most
popular organised sport in Australia, the combined total earnings of the 128
players in the National Netball League is only $500 000 annually, which
was described as a 'mere pittance' when compared with elite male sportsmen. Netball Victoria
stated that base payments for elite players in the CBT range from $1500 to
$15 000 (excluding personal sponsorships) and travel and accommodation
expenses are paid when travelling to play. A small number of players also have
stated that support for players is provided through the Commonwealth's Direct
Athlete Support Scheme (now the Australian Government Sport Training Grant
scheme), Hockey Australia
resources and through the AOC's medal incentive payments.
There is also limited scope for players to receive payment
outside this scheme and playing for their states in the Australian Hockey
League at best provides limited payment at and at worst requires players to
make a financial contribution to play in the League.
Player payments and therefore the ability to make a small living
from the game usually requires the players to go overseas, usually to Europe in
the off season. However, with the very full national and international program
for the national teams this is usually done by up and coming players or those
at the end of their playing careers.
stated that its national female athletes do not receive payment, however,
expenses associated with competition such as travel, accommodation and
allowances are provided.
The AWU, referring to netball in particular, argued
that levels of remuneration will need to be addressed in association with other
factors such as improved marketing of the sport:
Ultimately, this sport has to deal and compete with the legacy
of male dominated sports coverage in Australia...The players have got themselves
organised, they are developing a professional voice. There is some change and
perhaps some other people and some further new thinking coming into the sport.
I think remuneration for players has to go up, and it will. It will just
happen; the tide will rise. But that process is only part of it. The rest of it
has to fall into place—television, marketing and developing even better links
with the private sector.
Table 4.1 illustrates the wage distribution of elite
male sports compared to netball in Australia.
Table 4.1 Wage distribution
at elite level sport in Australia
Per Team ($)
Per Player ($)
# This does not allow for the
one player per team that does not have to count in the salary cap.
*The minimum a player can be
contracted for is $22,500 while the maximum is $65,000. However, players then
get remunerated on the amount of games the play at a rate of $3,100 for a
four-day game and $1,100 for a one-day game.
Source: ANPA/AWU, Submission 62, p. 7. The data for netball refers to women's remuneration, the
other sports to men's remuneration.
The data indicate that netball compares very
unfavourably with other professional sports with regards to remuneration. The
ANPA/AWU submission also drew attention to the much higher remuneration and
other conditions available in the New Zealand
netball league. The minimum the majority of players on lists received is
$12 000, some 40 players earn above $20 000, and seven earn more than
$45 000. The New Zealand
competition only has seven round plus finals compared to fourteen and finals in
for half the amount of work as Australian athletes, New Zealanders can expect
to earn ten-times as much money as ANPA members.
In addition to being paid by their club, New
Zealand national players receive a further
salary from Netball New Zealand, along with a Prime
Minister’s scholarship, which is also available after they retire. This government-funded
scholarship allows players to attend university free, pays for books and other
associated costs with professional development. This is discussed later in the
majority of female athletes cannot make a living from their sport in Australia,
and must work on a full-or part-time basis and/or rely on financial support
from a partner or family. Athletes can only reach their full potential with the
right supports in place, including adequate remuneration. The more time an
athlete has to focus on their skills, train and concentrate, the better their
Balancing work-life commitments
As a result of inadequate remuneration available from
their sports, the majority of elite female athletes must compete at an
international level as well as studying or working full time to support
Elite sportswomen gave first-hand accounts to the
committee of the frustrations involved in balancing these work-life situations,
especially the competing demands on their time with sporting, family and work
commitments. Mrs Ellis,
the Australian Netball captain told the committee:
....a lot of sportswomen have to work full-time, obviously to
support themselves. Most of us have partners or families and we need to be able
to devote some time to them. It is frustrating to have to fit in so much. When
you look at the Australian netball team, over half of our team have tertiary
qualifications. I think that is pretty important. Education is just as
important as sport. But it would be nice to be able to combine that in a much
Several years ago I was working full-time as a solicitor for a
firm in Sydney.
I was trying to play for the Swifts, coach and do all the things that you think
you should do as part of your sport. I went very close to an emotional
breakdown because I did not have the time. I had just got married and I wanted
to spend more time with my husband. It is pretty tough when you think there is
potential for your sport to pay you a salary, but it is not. That more than
anything else makes it pretty frustrating. 
Similarly, Ms Dick,
Director of the ANPA, stated that:
I have been playing for a number of years, and my circumstances
have changed. When I first started playing netball I was at university. It was
a bit easier then, because I was flexible with my training schedule and could
work around things a bit easier. I was working as well, which was hard, just to
get an income. I am still playing at CBT level and enjoying it, too. Working
full time, it is a struggle to train and be fresh for games at the end of the
week. I love netball and it is a passion. There are Phoenix
and other commitments outside of netball, too. I want to coach little kids,
because that is really enjoyable, but it is just hard to get out of full-time
work for that.
a member of the ANPA, highlighted the health and psychological demands placed
Other sports offer opportunities to go straight into
professional sport, and that can be their living. We do not have that. We have
to work full time just to support ourselves. That means that we have to get up
at 5 o’clock twice a week to go to
training in the morning, and on the days that we do not we have to go to
training after work. It affects our health. It affects us psychologically. You
get to a game at the end of the week and you are not in the mental state to
play. It is very hard; you cannot reach your potential as an athlete and you
cannot reach your potential in your career. You cannot reach your career goals
all the time, because you have to sacrifice the time to put towards your sport.
raised similar concerns:
There has been a spate of knee injuries in the last six months,
which I think is due to athletes trying to do too much in their lives. They are
trying to train. They are trying to do everything that their coach is asking of
them. You do not want to let your team mates down. You cannot take a night off
because you are tired. You cannot do that to your team mates, and you do not
want to let your coach down. You do not want to let your employer down either,
because they are often helping you get through your career, giving you time off
and being very lenient. So you do not want to not turn up just because you are
tired. It is probably less to do with the decisions that you make and more to
do with the impact that it has on your life.
Witnesses also stated that work and study commitments
resulted in less time being available to devote to coaching clinics and public
profile media work. Ms Ellis
I know that a lot of the girls in my team whom I play with are
either working full time or studying full time. They cannot get out to do
shopping centre promotions, which leads again to the invisibility of the sport.
There are footballers out there doing coaching clinics in schools, promotions
and appearances. A lot of my team mates cannot afford to do that because there
are just not enough hours in a day and they are trying to do too much. It is
probably a fairly good reflection of what women are like generally, I think, in
terms of trying to be superwoman and do absolutely everything—have your home,
your career and your family and, for us, our sport as well. That impacts again,
I think, negatively on our sport.
Similarly, Ms Dick
There are a number of such [promotional requests] requests. Of
course, you want to do that. I love my sport and I want to put back into
netball what they give me as well. It is great going to a clinic where the
little girls aspire to be like you, and they are the things that I want to do.
Unfortunately, I have to decline those requests. That is just the way it is.
An ability to earn a living from their sport would be
an important advance as it would remove the other pressures and distractions
athletes face so they could concentrate on their sporting performance.
The above discussion starkly illustrates the challenges
female athletes face in managing the competing demands of high-level
competition as well as work and/or study and family commitments. This is also
related to broader societal issues related to time and work life pressures that
women face and the division of labour between men and women generally. Evidence
indicates that women continue to carry the responsibilities of caring and
domestic roles within relationships and the demands of elite competition pose
an additional burden on female athletes.
Submissions and other evidence noted the lack of
professional career pathways for elite athletes.
The FFA commented on the problems of structuring
effective elite player pathways in women's soccer. There is 'some confusion or
lack of cohesion' between the current pathways (the school system, the club
system and the National Training Centre programs at the State Institutes or
Academies level). Given the age of the elite players, many players participate
in all three pathways and some do so concurrently – 'this equates to a huge
time commitment on the part of players and cost commitment on the part of their
parents'. The FFA noted that
while the pathways will never be overly clear, the challenge for the Federation
is managing the player's workload and players need to be monitored to ensure
there is no burn out or increase of injury and that their non-football career
or education is not adversely affected. The Review Committee into Women's
Football recommended a structure that is inclusive of all pathways, but with a
need to prioritise a particular pathway that accelerates development to compete
for the national team at an international level. The Federation commented on the
status of the Review's recommendations stating that:
....the organisation has adopted the principles of the report but
has had to say that it is something that we can only do when we can afford to
do it... The importance of it is recognised. It is just the affordability.
Submissions also noted a lack of opportunities for
female athletes to stay involved with their sport once they have finished
playing at an elite level. Ms Dick stated that
with regard to netball:
I do not think they are as recognised in the sport. I do not
want to say ‘not respected’. I have played over 100 [Commonwealth Bank Trophy] CBT
games and I am not even invited to the Netball Australia dinner. I am not
whingeing about that. But there are things like that, that connection, and the
communication between the sport as well and their players. In terms of the head
of Netball Australia,
I never met the CEO before Lindsay came. It was
great that we met her, but it is about that kind of relationship and building
stated that involvement in the sport would be enhanced if the sports were
supported via subsidies to employ athletes as staff members or special
scholarships were provided to enable athletes to work and train and also
develop skills in administration which could be used within the particular
Support for elite athletes
The Australian Sports Commission funds a number of
programs for elite athletes. The ASC administers the Direct Athlete Support (DAS)
Program, a Commonwealth Government initiative to provide direct funds to
targeted elite athletes, selected on the basis of medal potential and
individual need, to assist with daily living and training environment costs.
DAS allocations are made directly to athletes by the ASC based on submissions received
Table 4.2 Direct Athlete
Support Scheme breakdown by gender (payments made prior to 14 August
Athens 2004 Direct Athlete Support
Melbourne 2006 Direct Athlete Support
Australian Government Sport Training Grant
(1 Jul 05 to 14 Aug 06)
Source: ASC, Submission 30A, p. 3. The gender breakdown for the Australian Government Sport
Training Grants is skewed by the nature of the sports in which grants have been
disbursed to date, and the committee was advised that the likely longer term
breakdown would be similar to previous direct athlete support schemes.
The ASC, through the Australian Institute of Sport
(AIS), also provides scholarships to elite athletes. Approximately 700 athletes
access these scholarships each year in 35 separate programs covering 26 sports.
At present there are 673 scholarship holders, comprising 383 males (56.9 per
cent) and 290 females (43 per cent). The selection criteria vary among sports
but, as a general rule, successful applicants need to be competing at the
national championship level who are recognised by the relevant national
sporting body as elite or who have developmental potential. Scholarship
benefits may include access to facilities; high performance coaching; personal
training and competition equipment; travel, accommodation and living expenses
for events chosen by the AIS; full board at the AIS Residence or living out
expenses; reimbursement of education expenses up to certain limits (depending
on the type of study undertaken); assistance provided by the Athlete Career and
Education program (ACE); and incidental expenses. Acceptance of scholarships
require the acceptance of certain conditions, including undertaking a technical
or academic course or finding suitable full-time or part-time employment.
The ASC also provides Indigenous Sport Excellence
Scholarships. These scholarships are available for elite-level Indigenous
athletes, as well as coaches and officials. 45 per cent of these went to women
in 2005-06. The Elite Indigenous
Travel and Accommodation Assistance Program is also available for Indigenous
sportspeople who have been selected for a state team to compete at national
championships or an Australian team to compete at an international event.
48 per cent of these went to women in 2005-06.
The ACE program, which is a program of the AIS, is also
available. This program provides AIS Scholarship holders with career, education
and personal development services as well as transitional support for athletes
experiencing personal and sporting changes. The ACE program provides all AIS
Scholarship holders with access to these services to assist them in preparing
for 'life after sport'. More than 3000 elite athletes, from amateur and
professional sports, access ACE each year. In the year to date, 2173 athletes
have accessed ACE services, comprising 1174 males (54 per cent) and 999 females
(45.9 per cent).
The relatively balanced gender outcomes for ASC schemes
reflects the commitment of the Commission to gender equity goals. The
government's sport policy Building
Australian Communities Through Sport commits to 'continue to encourage
female participation in all aspects of sport in Australia'. The Commission saw its role in this
must continue to foster a culture of change through a mature approach which
encourages and supports the full involvement of all women and girls in every
aspect of sport, recreation and physical activity in Australia.
In New Zealand,
the NZ Academy of Sport operates a number of programs to assist elite athletes,
many of which are similar to the AIS programs. These include:
- the Prime Minister's Athlete Scholarships
- ACE; and
- Performance Enhancement Grants.
The New Zealand
Prime Minister's Athlete Scholarships programme assists talented and elite
athletes achieve tertiary and vocational qualifications while pursuing
excellence in sport. The Prime Minister's Athlete Gold Level scholarships are
also available as part of the Prime Minister's Athlete Scholarships programme.
The scholarships provide athletes with an opportunity to study for a tertiary
or vocational qualification after they are decarded and/or retire.
The New Zealand ACE programme assists athletes to
effectively manage their lives in order to achieve sporting excellence. ACE
advisors provide athletes with individualised services in the areas of
integrating sport and other life goals; life skills, such as decision-making
and goal setting; employment; financial budgeting; career advice; education
options; and media skills. Performance Enhancement Grants offer elite athletes
financial support associated with training, equipment and day-to-day living so
they can focus on their sports performance.
Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) manage the
'Avenues' program which is designed to prepare athletes with a career
opportunity when they retire from sport and take off some of the financial
pressures while they are participating. The program is supported by a human
resources company and places athletes with suitable 'athlete friendly'
It is in the intrinsic nature of women's sport that
most women pursue a career and education while playing. The tensions, both
around the demands on time, and between sport and different, perhaps better
paid careers, take their toll:
Managing to train at the level required to be selected for state
squads and the Australian squad demands full-time employment, and it gets too
demanding on many of the girls and they have to give it up.
The government assistance that we receive once we reach the AIS
squad and the Australian team is extremely helpful, yet we are required to take
about six to eight weeks off a year from our full-time jobs to travel to
international competitions, and that just gets too much. The decision is:
fulfil your dream and play for Australia
but maybe not have a job when you get home. Most of the girls in the squad, 99
per cent of us, have a university degree, so we are quite employable.
ACTING CHAIR—What percentage?
99 per cent. Every single player bar one has a degree. We are very employable.
Some girls choose going off and taking a good wage over playing softball, which
This steady migration of young women away from their
sports may be exacerbated by the fact that there are not many genuine career
paths in the sport on completion of playing, such as the very limited number of
full time coaching roles in women's sport.
Need for female role models
Submissions emphasised the need to promote sportswomen
as role models to inspire and motivate girls and young women to pursue sporting
careers. The absence of female sporting role models is a major contributing
factor to the low participation rates of girls in sport and recreation
The Women in Sport Media Group stated that young women
...need to be familiar with the names of the captain of the Matildas,
the captain of the Southern Stars cricket team and the captain of the
Hockeyroos. They need to know what the Matildas have just
achieved and where they are going. Those sorts of things should be part of the
general information that is out there for our women and young girls.
Regional Sports Assembly also noted that:
A lot of the girls do not have a role model to identify with.
When some of our better sportswomen, for example, choose to have families in
the middle of their sporting career, a lot of girls miss out on seeing them,
because they have issues to do with child care and, obviously, there are other
Evidence to the inquiry indicated that sportswomen
provide excellent role models:
Women in sport are some of the best role models in society today;
although we work full-time and train the hours of professional athletes, like
some of those in the AFL, NBL and NRL, we find time to still work with the
development of softball. A lot of us go back to our local clubs and
associations and work with charities such as Red Dust Role Models and ARM Tour,
where we go up to the Northern Territory and work with the Indigenous children
What better marketing tool than the hundreds of elite female
athletes that train at rural and metropolitan facilities around the country,
who give their sport their total concentration and commitment for little to no
hope of financial gain? Young women need to see that there is a future in
competitive sport and that there are hundreds of confident, strong women who
strive daily for their sporting goals. Such women need to be promoted, so that
their protégés can realise that there is a future in pursuing sport at an elite
level. For every Andrew Johns,
or George Gregan,
we desperately need a Liz Ellis,
or Susie O’Neill.
outlined the dangers of not encouraging positive female role models:
In the absence of media presence of positive female sporting
role models, young women will seek guidance and assurance from whoever graces
the front cover of their teen magazines, or whoever appears on their favourite
television shows. Currently, that void is filled with Hollywood
starlets who have little more than a famous family name and an expensive
wardrobe to their credit. Poor self-image is inextricably linked with the
constant coverage of these ‘role models’, as they are held up to represent the
traits and features of the ideal woman.
The powerful role of the media in 'creating' role
models is illustrated in several studies. One study reviewed a range of media
that involved various depictions of women and girls, especially where physical
appearance is valued, and concluded that the media plays a key role in shaping
young people's beliefs, perceptions and attitudes.
The Women in Sport Media Group argued that if there was
greater coverage of women’s sport, 'it is likely that girls will choose some
role models out of those people who they are widely exposed to and they will
imitate and say, 'It is great to be involved in sport. I like to do that as
well'. The Group added that:
We have actually done some research with a group at the University
of Technology Sydney into role
models for adolescent girls. It was found that the adolescent girls prefer to
have a female role model and also usually below 40 years of age. Now, if they
were to see all these sportswomen on TV and in the paper, they will have plenty
to choose from. But we also notice that they often do not choose them because
they are not available. One comment was made in a focus group. A girl said—and
it is typical—‘If Don Bradman had been a woman, he would have been my role
model, but because he is a man I can’t take him as my role model.
The lack of
promotion of women's sport – and the participants as role models – is
illustrated in the case of the Matildas.
I think a good example is what has just happened with the Matildas.
I was actually interviewed...to comment on the poor media coverage of the Matildas.
If you take that in comparison with the Socceroos, they said that when they played
the last qualifying round to get into the World Cup, there was a huge
atmosphere all around the country. When that happened to the Matildas—it
was about a week ago when they played and won that particular match—hardly
anyone knew about it. There was a bit of media coverage... But it is sometimes
such a great pity when we have fantastic sportswomen out there but no-one knows
about them...For those men’s teams, why does everyone know about them? They have
huge advertisements all the time in the papers, everywhere on the radio; you
follow all the players. If they would do something like that sort of promotion
for the Matildas, I reckon you would get full stadiums, no
Submissions and other evidence suggested that increased
media coverage of women's sport is essential in creating positive role models.
Increased media coverage would:
- lead to recognition for sportswomen and their
achievements and a sense of equity in the media so that people are aware of
what these women have achieved.
- attract more sponsorship and other funding and
to lift the profile of women’s sporting teams, events and programs. Without
media coverage, the sponsorship and funding is difficult to obtain because the
necessary 'profile' is not there and it is hard to convince people to support
- provide fit and healthy role models for young
women and girls (as discussed above).
Issues related to the role of the media in promoting women's
sport are discussed further in chapter 6.
The committee considers that a concerted effort is
needed by governments, sporting organisations and the media to promote female
sportswomen as role models to girls and young women. It is important that we as
a nation celebrate and value the contribution of sportswomen.
Other issues raised during the inquiry related to the
financial status and viability of women's national league competitions and the
opportunities and barriers for national team members and competitors in
Women's national league
Submissions raised questions in relation to the
financial status and viability of women's national league competitions.
Several national leagues appear to face questions over
their continued viability. Netball Victoria
stated that Netball Australia and each of the member organisations have managed
under 'extraordinary pressure' to keep the national netball league operating. Netball
Victoria noted however that the losses sustained by the organisation over the
past nine years in the Commonwealth Bank Trophy (CBT) program have been
'significant' – 'the investment made in this area compared to all other areas
of our sport are significantly higher and cannot be sustained in the long
term'. The organisation argued
for a review of the national competition to ensure its continued viability. The ANPA/AWU also questioned the
viability of the CBT competition as presently structured.
stated that the Commonwealth Bank Women's National Cricket League is almost
totally funded by the state associations. The competition is 'a long way off'
being self funded as it attracts limited sponsorship and spectator interest. In
an effort to improve the viability of this league Cricket Australia
is investigating increased promotional activity; new game formats; increasing
media exposure; and increasing sponsorship.
The FFA noted the considerable difficulties it faces in
establishing a national league. The requisite investment costs are too high in
relation to the revenue generation opportunities available. The geographical
size of the country means home and away competitions are very expensive to
stage. Airfares are the largest expense item. For example, in the men's
national league when Perth Glory travels to Auckland to play the NZ Knights it
is currently the world's longest road trip in a domestic football competition:
'almost 5400 kilometres separates Perth from Auckland meaning a flight of over
8 hours and a time difference of 4 hours for the travelling team'. On the revenue generation side, the
commercial opportunities for female sport are more limited. Limited media
coverage makes it more difficult to attract sponsors, which means limited
revenue with which to conduct a viable national league.
Despite questions over viability, evidence indicated
the importance of national league competition to elite sport. The FFA, in
particular, noted that the formation of a domestic national league is important
for the Federation because it forms part of the national team selection
process; provides regular, high level competition for elite players; enables
players to test themselves against the best players; and assists develop
women's football generally by showcasing the best players. These considerations undoubtedly
apply to other sports as well.
Various strategies were suggested to improve the
viability of national league competitions. Netball Victoria
argued that government should play a role in providing strategic advice and
support to assist sporting organisations to become more commercially oriented
businesses. As noted above,
is investigating several strategies including increased promotional activity
and sponsorship; and increasing media exposure.
These sports generally lack the funding to support advertising to any
substantial extent, therefore public awareness suffers as a result, and little
interest can be generated within the various television networks to televise
The committee believes that, given the importance of
national league competition to elite sport, that the leading women's sports of
netball, basketball, hockey and football in particular should be professional
in the national league competitions.
Submissions noted that there are significant barriers
for national team members and competitors in international competition. The
most significant barrier was identified as the difficult balance athletes must
maintain between their commitment to their sport and work commitments. Obtaining sponsorship is also a
major issue for women competing at international competitions. This is linked
to the profile of women's sport, which in turn is linked to media coverage.
The ANPA/AWU stated that women face significant
challenges in the bid to compete in open international netball competition.
ANPA members indicated that the major barriers to international competition are
the high performance training requirements placed on them as national squad
members and inadequate remuneration arrangements.
Some sporting organisations provide financial
assistance to athletes to compete in international events. The AOC Funding
Program provides National Federations with funding to contribute to the cost of
competitors in international competition in each of the four years in
preparation or an Olympic Games. In addition, athletes and coaches who won
medals at the 2004 Olympic Games or who win medals at World Championship events
are considered for AOC direct funding to help achieve selection at the 2008
Olympic Games. Neither funding program differentiates between male and female athletes.
Another issue raised in evidence was the importance of
reasonable coordination between national league competition programs and
international representative commitments of athletes. The FFA referred to the
Women's Football Review Final Report:
The review committee recommends that the timing of the league
season be determined in the best interests of the development of Women's
Football. It should not be determined by national commitments but determined in
cooperation and consultation with the national team. As with the A league,
known dates of national team activity may be avoided where possible, such as
Another perspective was offered by a netball player:
The commitments are increasing all the time to get gold medals
or reach the world championships. I was in the Aussie squad a couple of years
ago. The commitment was quite extensive at that time. We have a couple of
Aussie girls in our team. They spend a week off work every sort of second week
leading up to the Commonwealth Games. That is going to increase. We have the
world championships next year. The commitment is amazing. They have to juggle
their full time work or university. They have to have very understanding
Evidence suggests there may also be opportunities for
some sports where the men’s teams have a much higher profile, to schedule
women’s international matches with the men’s international matches. The FFA, in
their Women's Football Review Final Report states as one of their key
The season would be played over summer with the finals series to
coincide with the men’s A league to enable cross promotional opportunities.
In some cases, particularly in sports where the men’s
competition is dominant, evidence suggests that women’s teams would benefit
from greater opportunities to compete at an international level because the
resources are not currently allocated to them:
International fixtures and playing opportunities are governed by
and states would be fully supportive of moves to increase playing opportunities
for not only the senior, squad, but the Youth Development Squad (U23) who have
been under-serviced and under-exposed to international opportunities.
The committee found that:
- There are significant problems in the
recruitment and retention of elite sportswomen in Australia.
- There is significant inequity between elite
men's and women's capacity to earn a living from their sport. The remuneration
available to elite sportswomen is insufficient in the vast majority of cases to
enable them to play their sport on a full-time basis.
- The inability to earn a living from one's sport
creates significant problems for many sportspeople, particularly sportswomen,
in managing the competing work-life demands of sport, family and work/study
- Earning a living from one's sport can have
significant flow-on benefits for participants and sports organisations alike,
such as keeping role models involved in various ways with their sport for life.
- There is a distinct lack of professional career
pathways for sportswomen and this impacts on their ability to commit to a
full-time sports career.
- There is a need by governments, sporting
organisations and the media to promote elite sportswomen as role models to
motivate girls and young women to pursue sporting careers. It is important that
we as a nation celebrate and value the contribution of sportswomen just as
sportsmen are promoted and valued as role models.
- Given the importance of national league
competition to elite sport, leading women's sports should aim to be
professional in the national league competitions.
- There are significant barriers to the
participation of elite sportswomen in international competition and financial
assistance may be needed to provide on-going opportunities for this standard of
The committee commends the AOC for its ASPIRE
initiative, as well as the ASC for its ACE program, both of which provide
valuable assistance to athletes in developing and maintaining career paths.
The committee recommends that the Australian Sports
Commission further develop and expand the AIS ACE career assistance program to
enable a greater number of athletes to compete in elite sports. The committee
recommends the AOC expand its ASPIRE Career Assistance Program.
The committee recommends that a concerted effort be
made by governments, sporting organisations and the media to promote
sportswomen as role models to girls and women and to the wider community. This
recommendation aims to motivate girls and women to pursue a career in sport and
to motivate them to commence or continue participation in sport and recreation.
The committee recommends that NSOs review, and modify
if required, the timing of national league competitions to facilitate
participation by elite sportswomen in Australia's
national representative teams.
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