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Federal sports minister makes gender equality in travel a priority for Australian sport

Federal sports minister makes gender equality in travel a priority for Australian sport
February 4, 2016

Major sporting organisations backed by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) will be expected to provide gender equality in overseas travel standards if they want to continue to receive millions of dollars in Federal Government funding.

Federal Sports Minister Sussan Ley is demanding the policy as a condition of future Federal Ggovernment funding and, along with ASC Chairman John Wylie, has written to the 30 top funded organisations setting out an expectations for change.

The letter reads “in 2016, we can think of no defensible reason why male and female athletes should travel in different classes or stay in different standard accommodation when attending major international sporting events.

"The ASC is now proposing to make gender-neutral travel policies for senior major championships a condition of investment by the ASC in a sport."

The letter said the ASC was aware of some sports with very large revenue bases that were the worst offenders, with future funds from the government’s $134 million pool to be conditional on gender equality in travel and accommodation.

The Minister said she was not intending to "name and shame" poor-performing organisations, but she was confident public pressure would bring about change.

Minister Ley stated “quite frankly I was shocked and surprised to find that in every sport it isn't always the case that the guys and the girls fly and are accommodated at the same level of travel.

"I am prepared to tie the funding to compliance with this but I don't expect it to come to an argument - I know it won't, in fact."

The most high profile example of gender inequality in travel came during the 2012 Olympics when it was revealed that Basketball Australia’s more successful female team, the Opals, travelled in economy class to London, while the men's team, the Boomers, and Basketball Australia executives, including then Chief Executive Kristina Keneally, flew business class.

The Opals now travel in business class to international events like the Olympics and the World Championship, but also overseas friendly matches.

Commenting on this, current Basketball Australia Chief Executive Anthony Moore told the ABC “(this) was pretty easy one to rectify.

"We get a significant amount of taxpayers' money, via the Australian Sports Commission, for our high-performance program.

"So I think the average man and woman in the street would believe that we would apply those funds equally when it comes to matters such as travel."

The Minister said sporting organisations had responded positively to her request to increase the representation of women on their boards.

Professional Footballers Australia’s player relations executive Kathryn Gill, a current Matildas player who was at the centre of last year’s industrial action against Football Federation Australia over equal pay, said it was “simply unacceptable” that Australia’s elite female athletes had been denied the same conditions as male athletes for so long.

Gill stated “these measures are long overdue and are an important step forward in addressing the issue of gender equality, which to date has not been tackled in a meaningful way by most sports.

“The universal values of sport, which are so celebrated, have not been afforded to Australia’s most talented sports women. Rather they have consistently been treated as second-class citizens rather than the world class athletes they are.

“The Matildas, through the PFA, have long campaigned for improved workplace conditions. The introduction of these measures will ensure that players are provided with a high performance workplace that is fundamental for even greater success on the world stage.

“Our female members through the recent collective bargaining negotiations showed their willingness to play a major role in promoting gender equality in Australian society and remain determined to the light the way forward.”

Surfing Australia Chair Layne Beachley also welcomed the move, adding “it’s great to see the government coming down heavier on the sporting organisations saying you need to start supporting your female athletes.”

Beachley said she had often witnessed the gender gap in other forms in her time as a professional surfer before she retired in 2010.

She explained “there was huge disparity between the level of prize money, level of endorsements, level of marketing opportunity.

“Now we are seeing that gap narrow.

“It will take time but it starts with education, awareness and someone taking a stance and saying this is unacceptable, we need to change it.”

Images (from top): Federal Sport Minister Sussan Ley, the Opals win Bronze at the London Olympics and Surfing Australia Chair Layne Beachley.

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