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Media the real barrier to Matildas World Cup pay gap success

We ask two gender equality advocates whether a Matildas World Cup win will be enough to help close the gender pay gap.
August 9, 2023

The Matildas football team is not only going to have to win the FIFA World Cup but continue to sell out stadiums every match for Australia’s big media to stop blocking progress on the gender pay gap in sports.

According to Diversity and inclusion expert and academic, Dr Linda Peach, media companies in Australia and overseas present a major barrier to closing the gender pay gap because they continue to prioritise men’s sport over women’s and their focus determines what fans perceive to be more important.

“When it comes to football, it’s going to take a lot of shifting for the media to stop focusing primarily on men’s football. They basically tell us all the things that men are doing before telling us what the women are doing.

“For change to happen, media bosses first need to see a value in it for them. The media machine as it exists is primarily run by middle-aged white men and is steeped in misogyny – it’s going to take a major shift for them to change the way present women’s sport,” said Dr Peach.

Whilst an agreement has been reached for the Matildas to get the same percentage of prizemoney from tournaments as the Socceroos, the prize pool is driven by what media outlets are willing to pay for TV broadcast coverage.

Indeed, FIFA said it wants to see parity between the men’s and women’s tournaments by 2027, but for that to happen media needs to lift their game.

According to the Australian Financial Review, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that some bids for broadcast TV rights for the Women’s tournament had been for 1/100th of the value of nations’ equivalent men’s World Cup deals.

Declan Boylan, founder of Seven Consulting, a Program Management company and original sponsors of the Matildas since 2017, said the Matildas are packing out stadiums and absolutely deserve equal pay.

“When even the warm-up match for the biggest women’s sporting event globally ever, it is a 50,000-person sellout event in a proud Aussie Rules town. The CommBank Matildas also added 50% to that in Sydney a week later when the team played against Ireland and there was a small increase again when they played Denmark.

“The viewing figures on television for even a round of 16 games are topping the Men’s AFL Grand Final, NRL Grand Final, State of Origin since 2016!” he said.

“The Matildas are now truly Australia’s team, and the equal pay deal now looks to be favouring the Socceroos!

Pressure on the Matildas to change more than the World Game

Dr Peach believes that as in the corporate sector, where successful women will often attest to the higher expectations of women than men for the same outcomes, the Matildas will have to work harder than the men if they are to stand a chance at shifting gender norms.

“The Matildas have a lot of pressure on them to win to be taken seriously as footballers. I think the fact that a lot of men are supporting Matildas in their efforts to win the world cup is wonderful – and it also begs the question of what will happen after the world cup?

Indeed, will the support continue? Will people show up in droves to club matches? Or will they just go back to watching men’s football because the TV companies continue to prioritise men’s club matches over women’s.

“My sense is that there has been a solid and important step taken towards more support for women’s football, but I don’t think it is anywhere near the level of support given to men’s football and I don’t see that changing in the immediate future regardless of whether the Matilda’s win or not. There is still a long way to go.”

Matildas’ paid the minimum wage to play for Australia.

Mr Boylan said that when his company first sponsored the Matilda’s in 2017 each player was on moderate wages. Today, the average player is believed to be paid over $215,000 to play for their respective club with stars like Sam Kerr believed to earn around $3 million including sponsorship deals.

“Back in 2017, I read about the Matildas’ victories in beating the USA, Brazil and Japan in the USA. I learned these talented athletes earned $35,000-$45,000 annually at the time, and that they had zero dedicated sponsorship. There was a clear gap and an opportunity to support a world class side. That was reinforced when I spoke to my sons that evening, and they were both supportive having been across the team’s successes.

“Determined to explore the team further, we three boys trooped off to see Matildas v Brazil in Penrith. A full house provided a great atmosphere, and I vividly remember my initial mistake, hastily dismissing a shot as a “miskick” just before halftime. Ten seconds later, I was profusely correcting myself when I saw the replay. A centimetre perfect instinctive volley from Lisa De Vanna from 20m was the correct and corrected assessment. And Sam Kerr scored as well in a 2-1 win, followed by a similar 3-2 win over Brazil again a few days later in Newcastle. We were won over by the skills, effort and clear connection between the team and the fans.

“When we signed, we said that we hoped we would be replaced by a major corporate one day because that would be testament to how the game would have grown so much, and that too will come to pass later this year. As we proudly move our sponsorship to Tess Madgen and wonderful world class Seven Consulting Opals, we have enjoyed and are honoured to be a small part of the Matildas’ journey and a wonderful celebration of women’s sport,” said Mr Boylan.

Financy writes about gender financial equality, diversity and inclusion. We also provide the software, Impacter which makes DEI performance easy and accessible for business. We also publish the quarterly Financy Women’s Index report which measures timeframes to equality in Australia. To stay up to date with us, subscribe to our newsletter.

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August 9, 2023
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