Equality. It’s not something that cricket has traditionally done well – be it the split between amateurs and professionals in the early days, labelling countries with a status, or even how the ICC splits revenues between the Big 3 and “others”.
However, none of these discriminate on anything other than commercial lines. Either you are a revenue generator or you are not.
Cricket in this sense operates as a mini market, moving resources to the various means of production most efficient at creating revenues. To be fair, however, cricket almost consistently steered clear of racial discrimination.
The first Australian team to tour England was Aboriginal. The West Indies were rarely vilified because of their skin colour. The sport banned South Africa for ugly domestic policies.
But it is the sex split that currently holds centre court.
Women’s Cricket Gaining Limelight
In the past 12 months, we have seen the successful launch of the Women’s Big Bash and the women’s World T20 being played concurrently with the men’s tournament.
The women’s game has never had a period where it has as much airtime as it enjoys today.
Some female players’ names have reached the mainstream. We have deeper reporting on their matches. Television is waking up to its potential. Participation is up.
When it Comes to Pay, Equality a Myth?
However, where this ethos of equality is questioned is in the realm of remuneration.
I am no social campaigner. I believe unions bring more harm than good. I support gay marriage. I think border control is a complex issue. So too is aboriginal welfare. I am not a member of a political party but have centre right tendencies. I believe that people need to take responsibility for themselves rather than rely on the state where appropriate. I have never marched for any social cause nor signed a petition.
And like many average Australians, the benchmark on any issue for me is, “Is it fair?”
Not perfect. Fair. Does it pass the sniff test?
And in this sense, I’ve struggled to form a strong view on the issue of women’s pay in cricket.
The concept of equal pay for equal work rings true in my mind. That someone by a stroke of luck is born with a penis should not entitle them to any more benefits in life other than segregated bathrooms.
So the question now becomes, are the women cricketers performing “equal work”?
Can Cricket Take Lessons From Tennis?
If we look to women’s tennis, the balance in dollars on the surface appears to be there. But it is a little more complex than simply saying that if they can do it in tennis, why not cricket?
For instance, the only time one can truly say that women in tennis earn the same as men is when a jointly held tournament is being conducted – Grand Slams are the obvious example. But in these cases, the extravaganza exists because the tournament is almost apathetic to a player’s sex.
The Grand Slam loses its gravitas if both men and women are not producing the spectacle at the same time. It works as a commercial entity because of the sum of its parts.
Some argue that women should receive less in tennis as matches are 3 sets and not 5 as in the men’s game. But it is still a match. It has the same meaning. The ultimate winner earns a Grand Slam title.
But away from these super tournaments, it is common for events to be unisex. How to judge equal pay for equal work now?
Concurrently, the open market decides with total unashamed brutality the value of a player for endorsements. Much like the IPL auction determines whether your four overs a match are worth $300,000 or $1.5m.
Adidas will decide your worth.
Should Equality in Pay Stretch Into These Areas?
It can be argued that the wage attracted to allow a team the
use of your skills is a question of labour equality. Perhaps the wage attracted
to market your persona is a question of market value.
The ICC World Twenty20 behaved like a tennis Grand Slam in many respects. The men’s and women’s matches ran parallel. Both were battling to win the same trophy.
But they were not battling to win the same prize. For their efforts, the successful West Indian men got to share $1.6 million. England, as runners up, took home $800,000. Semi-finalists India and New Zealand pocketed $400,000. They all flew business class.
The West Indian women, winners of the same trophy, were only afforded $100,000 as prize money. The ICC booked their flights in economy.
Clouding this further is that in both instances, the money actually was paid to the West Indies Cricket Board. It is up to them to decide how the cash is split.
So is it “fair” that the West Indian women were valued at 1/16th of the West Indian men for achieving the same result?
Also of note is the fact that if we look at the Australian women cricketers, the maximum retainer is currently $65,000. Whereas the minimum Cricket Australia retainer for men is $270,000.
It is a large discrepancy. But even so, the Aussie girls are now the highest paid female sporting team in the country. But does the discrepancy reflect the lesser workload in regards to matches that the team plays?
Is it Just a Matter of Revenue?
I took to social media to help understand the view of the people.
Many suggested that until the women’s game attracts the revenues of the men’s game, or that crowds and viewing figures match, this skewed outcome is acceptable.
That line of thinking then concludes that a linear relationship exists between the ability of a sports to make money and how much one earns. Fair?
What About Spending to Better the Sport?
A more complex argument exists. One that states that subsidy is necessary for the long-term betterment of the sport.
Governments have long understood this economic theory. In Australia, for example, strong subsidies existed to kick start the renewable energy industry. These subsidies helped companies find their feet, energy producers to compete with cheaper coal options and attracted talent for the long-term betterment of the country. We now have solar panels on roofs and wind farms.
Other countries subsidise agriculture or create special tax free zones to encourage a market to establish and cement.
It is all based on longer-term thinking.
So should the revenues earned by the men be used to prop up the fledgling female game? Would greater pay attract more players, in turn attracting more viewers and a wider market for advertisers to reach?
If this holds true, to what extent should the subsidies
At an ICC dual event, should men and women play for the season prize money? What about the women’s Ashes or a random India vs South Africa T20.
Alternatively, should the status quo remain?
Women’c cricket needs to find ways to grow their game using the tools available. They are already on an upward curve as highlighted earlier. They just need a little patience. Why should the men sacrifice part of what they have worked so hard to create?
Perhaps the question is why do we label it “men’s cricket” and “women’s cricket”?
Isn’t it just all ‘cricket’?