Women’s sport weekly wrap: Let’s broadcast the WNBL

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    In the 1990s and early 2000s, basketball led the way for women’s sport in Australia.

    The Opals have been one of our most successful sporting teams, and medalled in each Olympic Games from 1996-2012.

    Particularly in the 1990s, basketball was the benchmark in a period, long before the mainstream media was even talking about women playing AFL, rugby sevens or rugby league professionally.

    But other sports have also begun providing women with similar opportunities, while the WNBL took a major hit at the end of 2014-2015 season when, due to budget cuts, the ABC withdrew its broadcast support (along with a withdrawal of support for a number of other sports).

    This season, the WNBL started without a broadcast deal or a naming rights sponsor. The league also had no minimum wage and the players, on average, earnt less than $25,000 per year.

    Despite an exciting WNBL season, which sees the Sydney Uni Flames one game away from taking out the 2017 season, the challenges off the court have been prominent.

    That’s why this week, I was so pleased to hear that the WNBL is talking with three broadcasters for televising the competition next season.

    Next year, there will also be a new minimum wage of $7500 (which will certainly benefit the 20 per cent of players who previously earnt less than $5000 per season), an agreement endorsed by each WNBL club.

    While moving in the right direction, there is still a long way to go, particularly when you consider that Super Netball players are paid over $25,000 per season, WNCL players are paid $11,000 per season and AFLW contracts begin at $8500.

    We know that you can’t be what you can’t see, so getting the WNBL back on television must be the goal Basketball Australia and the various clubs work towards. It not only draws interest to the support, but more eyes on the support increase the potential of corporate sponsorship, which the WNBL sorely needs.

    Penny Taylor of the Opals

    This is bittersweet, because I don’t like that female athletes have to leave Australia to pursue their dream of playing sport professionally.

    Regardless, congratulations are in order for eight players from the Aussie Spirit (Australia’s female softball team), who are going to play for the Chicago Bandits in the National Pro Fastpitch league, which takes place from June to August and features five teams.

    Each of Janice Blackman, Chelsea Forkin, Rachel Lack, Stacey McManus, Kaia Parnaby, Samantha Poole, Ellen Roberts and Taylah Tsitsikronis have signed a professional contract with the Bandits, and will have the opportunity to play in one of the most established leagues in the world.

    This is an important opportunity for these eight women, particularly as Australia works towards featuring in the 2020 Olympics for softball. Softball Australia will provide each player with a scholarship payment and a living and meals allowance.

    We need to keep getting better
    I also wanted to mention the efforts of Bec Goddard, who is coach of the Adelaide Crows AFLW team, and Heather Reid, who was appointed to the Football Federation Australia women’s committee on Tuesday.

    Bec and Heather are continuing to advocate for women in sport and pushing our sports to lift their game.

    The Crows are in a unique position in that nine of their players are based in the Northern Territory – so that means that Bec generally only sees her players, in person, on match day. Bec wants extra pay for these players to cover the days they miss at work, so that the team can train together each week.

    Last week, when Adelaide played the Demons in Darwin, the women based in the Northern Territory had the luxury of being able to enjoy 12 consecutive nights sleeping in their own beds – the longest that they will have during the entire AFLW season.

    This arrangement makes it even more remarkable that Adelaide look likely to face the Brisbane Lions in the league’s first grand final next week.

    Speaking of AFLW, this week Heather Reid said that in light of the success of their marketing, the W-league needs to lift its game.

    Rather than seeing AFLW as a threat, there are lessons to be learnt from other sports in how to market a competition and players.

    Our sports are not in competition with each other – we should be taking every opportunity to learn from each other so we all get better together.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • March 17th 2017 @ 6:24am
      Kurt said | March 17th 2017 @ 6:24am | ! Report

      you dont like that ‘female softballers have to leave this shore to make a living’
      this is what is wrong with feminism today. male semi pro baseballers in oz get a few hundred a game but women deserve the same, no they deserve more, they deserve a living wage. why dont they play for the love of the game, and be happy with that?

      • March 17th 2017 @ 9:06am
        northerner said | March 17th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        This has nothing to do with feminism, and everything to do with the difference between amateur and professional sports. Would you be prepared to tell Buddy Franklin or Tim Cahill or Jonathan Thurston that they should forgo earning a living in their sports and just play for the love of the game? I doubt it. So why criticize the ladies for doing what so many men have done?

        • March 17th 2017 @ 11:39am
          Kurt said | March 17th 2017 @ 11:39am | ! Report

          it has everything to do with feminism.
          This overentitled veiw that a person should be rewarded because they play at an elite level is farcical.
          the difference between where the men and the women sit the men only demanded professionallism once the comp was viable to provide for them. now your saying that the men now have an obligation to pay the way of the opposite gender. it must be very empowering knowing women is so reliant of the health of the mens comp.

          • March 17th 2017 @ 12:28pm
            Kurt said | March 17th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            and if this wasnt a sex issue, why is there no push for a professional baseball waterpolo, even futsal league, you know why because it is not financially viable

          • March 17th 2017 @ 2:59pm
            northerner said | March 17th 2017 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

            “now your saying that the men now have an obligation to pay the way of the opposite gender.”

            That is what is known as the “straw man” logical fallacy. I said no such thing. I didn’t imply any such thing. You invented that out of whole cloth. It’s pretty sad when you have to totally misrepresent what someone said to try to win an argument.

            What I said is that amateurs who play sports play for the love of the game; professionals play it to earn a living. If the ladies want to earn a living, and can do so by playing in the US, then how is that different from Tim Cahill heading off to England all those years ago to make a career as a pro soccer player? You wouldn’t have told Tim to stay home and just play for the love of the game, so why apply different standards to the women?

            • March 17th 2017 @ 4:28pm
              Kurt said | March 17th 2017 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

              im not applying any differece in standard, im applying an equal standard

              • March 17th 2017 @ 5:16pm
                northerner said | March 17th 2017 @ 5:16pm | ! Report

                Actually, you’re not. You’re saying that women who want to be pros should just be satisfied with playing for beer money instead. I don’t think you’d say that to a guy who was thinking about going to play baseball in the US (which a lot of Australians have done, incidentally).

                Let’s face it, Australia simply can’t support fully professional leagues in every sport. But the world is a bigger place than Australia, and there’ll always be athletes willing to try their luck abroad. It’s just that a lot of them these days happen to be women, because they can’t make a living wage in Australia alone.

      • Columnist

        March 17th 2017 @ 10:17am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 17th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

        Hi Kurt

        It’s not really a ‘men v women’ issue, it’s more that I don’t like it when Australian athletes have to leave Australia to get the best opportunities in their various sports. Wouldn’t you also rather that they stayed here? I know this isn’t viable for all sports, but in a perfect world, for me, all our athletes would stay put.

        Thanks for reading!

    • Roar Guru

      March 20th 2017 @ 6:26pm
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | March 20th 2017 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

      Marketing of women’s sport certainly needs some work and there is much to be gleaned regarding return on investment from the AFLW’s activities.

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