Claire's Comment: Thank you Matildas

Watching the Matilda’s penalty shoot-out against France on Saturday night reminded me of being in the stands the night Cathy Freeman won the women’s 400m event at the 2000 Olympic Games.

It was, as my dear friend Bradley Webb would say, ‘a glimmer moment’. That is, a moment which brings a sense of joy or safety or other positive emotion and which often reminds you of another such moment. When Cortnee Vine converted her penalty and the Matildas made history, it was a moment of national joy, just as it was 23 years ago when Cathy Freeman carried the nation to that history making gold medal.

We have many such moments of joy to thank the Matildas for in this wonderful FIFA Women’s World Cup. Always playing with grace, grit and determination and displaying such integrity and camaraderie, the Matildas have become a must see for even those who do not usually watch or follow football.

Winners are grinners

All of which is a great bonus for Channel 7 which paid Optus just $5 million for 15 matches (including all of the Matildas matches), meaning Optus effectively shelled out $8 million for access to all 64 World Cup matches.

As John Lyons wrote for ABC online this week, “Seven and Optus have paid peanuts and received gold.”

This year’s Women’s World Cup is the first in which FIFA separately sold broadcast rights to the tournament, a break from the past in which the rights were essentially given for free to broadcasters who bought rights to the men’s tournament.

In contrast, the payments for AFL rights with Foxtel and Seven ($4.5 billion over three years) means the AFL was paid on average $26 million per weekend, or five times more than Channel Seven paid for all Matildas games.

So why does it matter that corporate networks are willing to pay many times more for the broadcast rights for men’s sport compared to women’s sport?

It matters because it translates into the huge and unequitable gender pay discrepancy between male and female players in all of the big global sports, with the possible exception of tennis. In women’s sport, player salaries and prize money are lower – much lower. These, in turn are related to broadcast deals and the number of sponsors compared to the men’s tournaments.

The total $US152 million in prize money for the 2023 expanded FIFA tournament is US $122 million more than was shared by the 24 teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. It is US$288 million less than was given as prize money for the 2022 Men’s World Cup.

None of which makes sense when you consider that the Matildas’ epic shootout victory over France on Saturday was the largest television sport event in at least a decade, with an estimated average audience in Australia during the game of 4.17 million.

An article in The Guardian, wrote that according to preliminary OzTAM data, the 7-6 penalty win reached more than 7.2 million people across Channel Seven and its streaming service 7plus. The figures made it the top television program for the year, eclipsing the round of 16 victory over Denmark which attracted 2.294 million viewers.

Who says women’s sport does not pay?

How much are women footballers paid?

An analysis by the Australian Financial Review found that Matildas skipper and Chelsea WFC striker, Sam Kerr, earnt $3.3 million last year, more than 10 times that of her Australian teammates. Matilda’s defender Ellie Carpenter earnt $1.2 million, while the rest of the squad made between $200,000 and $400,000 in the last financial year.

None of them are even close to making the Forbes list of the worlds’ 50 highest paid sports people, where the cut-off was $45.2 million.

Top 50 sports earners in 2023
Sport No. of people in top 50 Men Women
American Football 10 10 0
Auto racing 2 2 0
Baseball 1 1 0
Basketball 15 15 0
Boxing 2 2 0
Football (soccer) 6 6 0
Golf 12 12 0
Tennis 2 1 1
TOTAL 50 49 1

Measured over the period from 1 May 2022 and 1 May 2023, Serena Williams was the only woman to make the cut.  The three top positions are taken by soccer stars, Ronaldo, Messi and Mbappe. In all, the top 50 sportspeople hauled in an estimated $3.44 billion before agents’ taxes and fees – of which $2.36 billion came on the field in the form of salaries, bonuses and prize money.

There is a separate discussion to be had around these fairly outrageous fees and if sport is made better or worse by them, however let us take heart from the fact that what the Matildas have given women and girls in this country in terms of incentive, hope and the courage to stand up and play your game of choice, cannot be valued in dollar terms alone.

Affirmative Action for Women in Sport

Women Sport Australia has launched an affirmative action campaign to ensure women and girls have access to their chosen path in sport.

1: Sign the gender equity pledge
2: Donate to WSA via the @aussportsfoundation


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