2019: the defining year for equality in sport

“Equal pay, equal pay, equal pay.” The crowd roared.

When we look back at 2019 so far, it is clear there is growing interest in equality for female athletes. There has been much focus on equal representation, equal opportunities and, the big one: equal pay.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the median full-time annual income for men that are classified as a sportsperson (includes athletes from all levels that earn money from their sport) is $67,652. Women in this category earn $42,900. That is a gap of $24,752.

However, the pay gap is much wider when you look at the top-tier athletes.

For example, in the soccer World Cup, if the Matildas had won the entire competition, they would have received $4 million in prize money. That figure is just half of what the Socceroos earned for simply qualifying to play in the World Cup.

However, in 2019 it appears as though the tides are turning.

Let us look back at the year so far – here is the good, the bad and the ridiculous:

The bad

AFL player Tayla Harris was the target of degrading comments after an inspiring photo was posted of her kicking.

Amid the Women’s World Cup buzz, the Matildas revealed the second jobs they have to keep to make ends meet while playing professional sport.  

Disadvantageous airtime for high profile matches in tennis and soccer minimised viewer numbers.

The ridiculous

Focus from the talent of Ukrainian Elina Svitolina’s tennis win came second to her outfit choice.

One in eight men had the opinion that they could score a point in a game of tennis against World No. 9, Serena Williams.

... But Serena had an excellent response.

The good

The Male Champions of Change Sport released their 2019 Pathway to Pay Equality with 20 signatories and 12 different Australian sports represented.

The AFLW grand final broke a new record with more than 53,000 attending.

Businesses in Australia and abroad are standing behind their female athletes and challenging stereotypes.

On 24 June, in less than 12 hours, three women rose to number one in their sports: Sally Fitzgibbons, Ash Barty and Hannah Green.

Cricket Australia announced equal pay for female and male cricketers in next year’s Twenty20 World Cup.

The US women’s soccer team disproved all the common justifications given for pay inequality in sport.

We are having more conversations about equality in sport than ever before and the momentum keeps building.