The age old question – Commercialisation of Women in Sport

Having a healthy interest in womens sport because, I am a woman, I have 2 daughters, we all participate at various levels of netball; a thread I have been following “Society needs more commercialisation of women in sport” certainly caught my attention.

My reply to the thread: “Agree, but the visuals of women in sport is trivialised and denegrated by societal perceptions of the female body.”

And was reminded that my comment was a comment that could be true not just in sport but across the board. And I had to agree with this. I also realise, that I too fell into the trap that a womans physical attributes and looks are the only commercial value that we have. And hence my dilemma.

Am I becoming a product of that societal perception? I hope not. One saviour to my dilemma would have to be high profile netballer and business woman, utilising her keen love and participation in her chosen sport Laura Geitz. With her success in her sport, in Australia she also manages a heavy workload, conducting coaching clinics Queensland wide, managing her clothing line, making appearances in local and national media, promoting healthy lifestyles choice in mining, Breast Cancer awareness and so much more. Balancing and juggling all this with her fully loaded playing, travelling and training schedule and enjoying her first year of marriage, seems a lot, but ever the professional Laura seems to outwardly manage this in her stride. I am sure she has her moments, we all do. There are many other examples that could be used: eg Serena and Venus Williams V Federer, Nadal: Sheryl Swoopes V Michael Jordan, Lydia Koh/Carrie Webb V Tiger Woods (current ranking)

Can we as women in sports make the step change and provide the increase of commercial value of sports women. We are paid less than men in sports at a parallel level, we are typically offered less for endorsements of sporting goods, (I don’t know of any females that are paid the same for endorsements that the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant NBA stars and/or Troy Aikmen Tom Brady, Peyton Manning NFL equivalents enjoy). NBA stars are flown to their destinations and/or have private jets, major hotel accommodation. WNBL players, usually have to bus to their venues or fly economy to their destinations. Only the very lucky would be offered endorsements with the big labels, and would not be on the same commercial value as their male counterparts.

Female officials are typically utilised in mens sports for the fundraising/benefit type games. Recently during the NBA All Star event, a female umpire whistled the game, she was the first ever female to officiate at this level. The IRB Sevens tournament, which is played worldwide, has female touch judges but have not seen one officiate the Grand Final at these events. The probability that these games have a high dollar value attached to the game seems to be a motivating factor, and highly contested by males for the top job in a male dominated sport. In comparison, netball has its first ANZ Championship male coach, males have officiated in many top level games for a number of years now, and have been accepted in these roles.

Step Change already in a female sport, has commercialisation of womensport increased females participation and ownership in sports or decreased the exposure of females in sport? Are we in charge of womens sport at the boardroom level to the point that we control and regulate how the sport is played, marketed and endorsed? or are we the female component of any given sport.

How do we increase commercialisation? Do we teach our daughters to succeed in sport and business, and start grooming our future leaders. This would be the long term fix, and the work that we do today would set the foundation stones and start to pave the way for a smoother transition for our daughters. I feel that equality is required, and women can work hard to achieve….BUT if we operate and achieve on a par with our male counterparts given the same opportunities and start to win the cream jobs, then our daughters will have the learnings to move womens sport to the same level commercially, as mens sports.

We certainly need to increase commercialisation, but we have to know exactly where we are now, nation by nation, then globally to effect the changes that we desire. For me it is a very basic equality, not pro rata or sliding scale based on males earnings.

Hard get, possibly but I think chipping away at the foundations will give us the cracks that we need to start rebuilding in the positive.

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