Traditionally womens sport has been considered the less popular cousin to mens sport. This has been evident in sporting attendances, tv deals and media coverage going back decades. With the AFL launching its womens competition, and the threat from its financial and support strengths, it seems the latest sporting battlefront is emerging.
Recently, The Australian quoted former Hockeyroos coach, Ric Charlesworth as saying other codes could be concerned because the AFL could steal elite athletes away from them, as it has done in the mens scene.
“The extraordinary thing we are seeing is these girls (who were snapped up in the AFL’s first female draft earlier this month) are on the back page and the front page and they haven’t done anything yet,’’ he said. “If you’re in the national hockey team, you have to win a World Cup or Olympic Games medal to get the same treatment.’’
“The AFL is happy to cannibalise every sport in the country. Our male athletics stocks have been diluted because a lot of them go into the AFL and they play a domestic sport — and you have to think that might start to happen in women’s sport. A lot of girls aren’t going to want to get beaten up in a contact sport but there will be some very good first-choice athletes who will choose it and that will have an influence.’’
So who are the players?
After previously paying to have its content broadcast on the Ten network, Netball Australia signed a 5 year commercial deal with the Nine network and Telstra in March 2016. The deal, which begins in 2017, a Saturday night live double-header on Nine, as well as two delayed games. Telstra will broadcast two exclusive matches per week live via Telstra TV as well as simulcast Nine’s two live matches, and all games will be available live on a “Netball Live” mobile app.
Nine and Telstra will also have rights to Netball Australia’s international matches, the Fast5 competition, the Constellation Cup between Australia and New Zealand as well as the Quad Series between Australia, NZ, South Africa and England. The season proper features 60 games played from February,
Netball Australia has also dropped the New Zealand teams from the competition, and added three new teams – Greater Western Sydney, Collingwood and the Melbourne Storm will all form netball sides in the competition for 2017. The Storms team, will actually be operated out of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, and be called the Lightning.
Then theres the wage deal, announced in September 2016.
- The new national league next year will see 80 players share a pool of almost $5.5 million and it is hoped the sport could become fully professional within five years.
- Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the average salary for netballers will rise from about $40,000 to $67,500, and the minimum wage more than doubles to $27,375.
- The deal includes breakthrough conditions, like clubs paying for children under 12 months old and a carer to travel to games with players, private health insurance and income protection for up to two years in the event of injury or pregnancy.
- For the first time, all athletes will be on 12-month contracts.
- The hours between 10:00am and 4:00pm will be off-limits to training, to allow women to work and study.
Cricket is arguably running ahead of the curve, and may have even sparked the latest developments with its WBBL season launching in 2015 to wide acclaim with the first two games attracting three times the audience of free-to-air A-League football matches that season. Cricket Australia are sharing the costs of the WBBL production.
In 2015 the women received a BBL retainer of $3000-$10,000, while state players’ contracts rose to $7000. The governing bodies had poured an extra $600,000 into the total payment pool to take it to $2.26m. (The minimum retainer for a male BBL player was $20,000 and the salary cap for the eight sides in that competition is $10.4 million.)
In April 2016, Cricket Australia said that Australia’s leading female cricketers will be the best paid of any women’s team sport in the country after they announced significant pay rises and doubled its commitment to Australia’s elite female cricketers from $2.36 million to $4.23 million.
This will see maximum retainers for the Southern Stars rise from $49,000 to $65,000. When combined with increased maximum retainers for the Women’s Big Bash League of $15,000 the base rate for Australia’s best female players rises to $80,000.
In October, the Commonwealth Bank announced support totally 5 million a year over 3 years for womens programs, including the WBBL.
Womens Soccer seems to be a little behind the 8-ball here as the W-league has been subject to some pretty severe criticisms in 2016 over its pay and conditions. A PFA report released in September showed a quarter of W-League players were paid less than $500 for the 16-week season, and 10 per cent weren’t paid at all.
- 90% of respondents signalled that they would consider leaving the game early to pursue more financially rewarding career options
- 85% of players earn less than $5,000 for the season
- 25% of players earn under $500 for the whole season
- $2,237 (on average) is the cost to play in the W-League for players
- 51% do not have access to preventative and rehabilitation services from their club
- 75% consider training and playing facilities to not be of an acceptable standard
With an average cost of $2237 worn by each W-League player to play in the league, it’s likely more players than not were out of pocket for their participation. Only 15 per cent earned more than $5000 for the past season, which equates to $312 a week without factoring in pre-season training.
The salary cap for the national women’s league is set at $150,000 per club, with a minimum spend of just $35,000. Teams that paid the minimum spend would have paid a 20-woman squad an average amount of just over $100 a week per player – with no recompense for pre-season. Perth Glory, the 2014 W-League premiers, won the league paying their squad just $50,000 – or under $160 a week per player.
In September 2016, the FFA set up a working party with the PFA to look at womens pay and conditions.
In October 2016, it was reported that the FFA had agreed to pay allowances to W-league players. Amateur players will now receive an allowance in line with male National Youth League (NYL) and state competitions – between $60 and $150 a week.
Fresh from the Olympic Games where the womens national side took out the Sevens Gold medal, the ARU hopes to attract more women to the game using this format.
A day after the AFL announcement, NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said he wanted his code to establish a domestic women’s league by 2021.
In 2015 and 2016, the AFL reported record ratings for its womens exhibition games between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.
In June 2016, the AFL announced its 8 team competition to launch in February 2017. The teams include Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, although 13 of the 18 AFL clubs did apply for entry – and some of those will be granted entry in 2018.
A number of players have been recruited from other codes for this competition, including a number of soccer players and basketball players, as well as several athletes. As part of the rookie listings, AFL clubs could list players that hadnt played the game before.
Even more players were taken during the National draft, some of these will be trying to do double duty in both their codes.
In September the AFL announced this competition would be known as AFL Womens. The competition will have NAB as its naming rights sponsor, estimated to be worth 2-3 million a year.
In November 2016, the final pay details and arrangements for the womens AFL comp were announced.
Players will have to pay for private health insurance costs but the new package will see the AFL cover:
- costs for football boots and runners
- a travel allowance when playing interstate
- income protection insurance
- out-of-pocket medical expenses for 52 weeks post-contract
- carers allowance for players travelling interstate who have a child under 12 months old.
The two-year agreement will see the packages increase in the second season in all categories with the minimum payment being $9,726, while priority players will receive $12,486 and marquee players $27,946. The increase is up from the initially proposed base of $5,000 specifically to help cover health insurance.
“The main thing from the commission’s point of view was if we can make a larger contribution to private health insurance, we did. $500,000 was put towards that specifically to cover every girl’s private health insurance,” Lethlean said.
The AFL’s direct financial commitment to player salaries totals $2.275 million for the 2017 eight-week season before increasing to $2.454 million in 2018.
NAB AFL Women’s players will be engaged with their club for nine hours per week during the pre-season training block (8 weeks) and nine hours plus match-days during the eight-week season, to help minimize distraction to their current employment and study commitments. They will also complete 20 hours of appearances under this agreement.