Has Australia embraced women’s sport?

Image Source: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

By Nikita Skuse | @nikita_skuse 

‘No one wants to watch women play sport’ is a common argument when it comes to the issue of women’s sport.

Women’s sport experiences a lack of funding and less media coverage.

Female athletes are also exposed to harassment and discrimination on a daily basis.

Even just last month Carlton forward Tayla Harris was subjected to vulgar comments online.

7AFL’s decision to remove the image of Harris that sparked those comments from their Facebook page rather than moderating the trolls that posted them spoke volumes about the inequalities women in sport face.

But despite the discrimination, 53,034 people attended the 2019 AFLW grand final between Crows and Carlton at the end of March.

Those numbers set a new record for the highest attendance at a domestic women’s sport game in Australia.

However, this record attendance was greatly under-estimated by the South Australian Government.

This was evident in the lack of public transport organised for the day, leaving large numbers of people waiting while trying to make their way to Adelaide Oval.

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure said that people were waiting up to an hour for public transport – in some instances longer – with some having to be directed to other services.

The department spokesperson said these wait times are similar to those for the men’s AFL games

“The unprecedented crowd could not have been expected based on previous attendances for AFLW games. We will certainly be working with the AFLW, AFL and AOSMA to provide the best service we can to cater to AFLW crowds in future,” the spokesperson said.

Minister for Transport, Stephan Knoll, tweeted during the game: “As soon as the huge numbers became apparent we moved to increase the post-match transport services. My apologies to all those who had to wait to get to the ground.”

But despite the setback on grand final day, the AFLW is becoming more recognised as a professional sport.

Head of Women’s Football, Nicole Livingstone, said that although the AFLW is still early in their journey as a sporting league, they are focused on continuing to grow their sustainability.

“Whilst 53,000 at our Grand Final was incredible, we still have much to do to grow our overall audiences,” she said.

In regards to whether AFLW players’ salaries will be re-evaluated after the popularity of the final, Ms Livingstone said, “We are focused on the ability of our players to earn a living in the football industry.”

Currently, salaries for men’s AFL players are said to be around an average of $309,000 to $371,000  while the highest AFLW player’s salary for 2019  is $24,600.

This inequality in football isn’t only found in the national league, it also trickles out into local teams, affecting the future generation of female footballers.

Barossa Light and Gawler junior footballer, Angie Couzner, said that in her local competition she feels less valued as a footballer compared to boys her age.

The 16-year-old said her local football league is always making “one step forward but also one back.”

“We finally get to play full field but the season is shortened because they don’t think we can handle a longer season if it’s full field,” she said.

“I think there is still a lot more to do before there is gender equality in Australian sport.”

 

 

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