Wednesday, October 3, 2012

(sports) Cricket:Twenty20 World Cup Pay Difference Highlights Gender Inequality

It only received very brief headlines, but the recent controversy over the living allowance disparity between male and female cricketers at the twenty20 world cup highlights some continuing worrying trends in the world of sport as a whole.

England captain Charlotte Edwards started the ‘controversy’ when she suggested that World Twenty20 chiefs would need to review the pay divide in the daily living allowance offered to women and men. Female cricketers at the 2012 Twenty20 world cup in Sri Lanka receive a daily allowance of £37 per day. Male cricketers at the 2012 Twenty20 world cup in the same country playing in an event organised by the same governing body have been receiving a daily living allowance of £61 per day. It was also noted that female cricketers were flown out to the subcontinent in economy class, while male cricketers travelled business class.

The first striking thing about these numbers might actually be the sheer quantity of money that cricketers receive for a living allowance. £259 per week isn’t a small amount when all of your basic expenses are handled for you. Male cricketers at the Twenty20 world cup have over £400 per week to spend on food and for entertainment purposes. That isn’t a bad perk for an already very good job.

It should also be mentioned that female cricketers are probably not overly concerned about having to survive off of ‘only’ £37 per day. Edwards was quick to state that ‘Our focus is on the cricket at the moment and not on how much money we get’. Of course there is more to playing cricket for your country then how much money you make. 

However, there are also some pretty clear principles that it would be pretty sensible to follow. There is absolutely no reason that men would need a living allowance worth £24 more per day than women. It can be argued that the discrepancy in the prize money is a result of their simply being a lot more money in the men’s game in general (the winning men’s team takes home £616,000, while the women’s winner collect £40,000). That is still a questionable issue, but a more complex one at least. The difference in daily living allowances at the Twenty20 world cup can only be put down to sexual discrimination. Logistically speaking it might actually have been a lot easier to split the money up more evenly.

 So, what’s the point? A difference in living allowances doesn’t seem to be a major issue compared to some of the other problems of sexism in sport, which are present at both a professional and recreational level, and start at a very young age.

Neither will simply evening up the living allowances fix these bigger problems. The point is rather that this difference is symptomatic and representative of the wider problems. It really shows a complete disregard for the equality that the sport should be striving for. If the game’s own governing bodies have sat down and produced a difference in budgeting that is a complete insult to the idea of equality, then what hope is there for improved gender equality in cricket in general?

Cricket isn’t the only sport that has this problem. Women’s football is the third largest team sport in the UK, but this is not at all represented in terms of sponsorship deals or in terms of television rights. Surveys including both genders suggest that the publicising of women’s sport via television is something that the majority of people would welcome.

The evidence from the few sports that have offered stronger support to the women’s game is that this is correct. At Wimbledon, the prize money for women and men is the same. Women’s tennis draws in comparable sized audiences both in the stands and on television to the men’s game. Does this mean that sexism is absent from tennis? Of course not, there are still problems with the perception of female tennis stars and with the general culture surrounding the sport. But the sport’s governing bodies do at least seem to be taking the issue of improving gender equality seriously.

Another example is women’s basketball in the United States. The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) runs its league throughout the summer and receives prime television time on ESPN. While there are still some serious issues with the size of contracts, especially compared with the staggering figures made by NBA players, the WNBA has forged itself as an independent and effective sports league. It is widely recognised as such and generally popular. This is mirrored in college basketball, where the women’s tournament takes place alongside the men’s tournament and is a key component in helping the period maintain its name ‘March Madness’.

The daily living allowance handed out at the Twenty20 world cup may seem like a minor micro issue that just needs to be fixed behind closed doors, but the reality is that it is a part of some far larger institutional problems. The claim here is not that the problems with gender equality in sports can be magically fixed, or that there are models of gender equality that need to be followed.

There is a huge amount of work that needs to be done to improve this situation, and a lot of it will need to be ‘bottom up’. However, it is also incredibly important that the top governing bodies take the issue of gender equality seriously, and engage with it. It’s very hard to find the evidence to suggest that they have done that so far and the difference in the daily living allowance at the Twenty20 world cup, and in fact the complete lack of real scandal surrounding it, are just further proof that serious engagement is just not happening at this time.

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