The gender pay gap remains enormous in sport. Despite women’s achievements in rugby, football and cricket, resources continue to be channeled to men’s sport in South Africa.
In May this year, Cricket South Africa (CSA) CEO Thabang Moroe made a bold pronouncement – he wanted to see men and women paid equally in the sport.
Bold because contentious contractual agreements for national contracts – for men – had not been signed yet, following a lengthy standoff between the South African Cricketers’ Association and the suits at CSA.
Bold because cricket – and sport in general – was a long, long way away from gender parity.
The silence from the other sports federations was audible. You would think such a statement would spark the ‘Four-Minute Mile’ effect and cause the other sports administrators to take up the fight for equal gender pay. Not a word.
The last known figures (2015) showed Proteas women earned about eight times less than the men. If the men win a Test, it’s R10,000 ($690) to R80,000 ($5,520).
Those figures might have improved for the women following financial wellness company Momentum’s injection into the sport, especially after their stellar showing at the Women’s World Cup in England last year, where they made the semifinals. However, the gap remains enormous.
The general consensus is that the AB de Villiers big hits and Kagiso Rabada’s bombardier bowling bring in the audience and therefore they deserve a bigger slice of the pie.
But how can they not be viewed in higher marketing esteem when all the resources are channeled to boys’ sports from inception? When there are school rugby derbies, the sister schools are in the stands watching the boys play but where are the boys when the girls play?
The game is rigged from the start. Women are playing a board game of snakes with no ladders, whereas the men are in a game of ladders with no snakes.
At the last women’s World Cup in 2014, the Springboks women’s squad members were paid somewhere between R5,000 ($345) and R7,000 ($483) per match, according to a source within SA Rugby.
Pitiful as those wages were, they were the last seen by the XV-player version of the women’s game. For four years, the rugby mother body scheduled no Tests for the women’s national team, choosing instead to focus on the Sevens derivative, whose players received R12,000 ($828) to R20,000 ($1,380) in match fees.
This year, the women’s national XV-a-side team returns to the field, most likely to cobwebs where a fair wage should be.
Au contraire, the men are laughing all the way to the bank. The current HSBC Sevens World Series champions, the Blitzboks, can each expect nothing less than R800,000 ($55,288) per year for contracted players, while Springbok match fees range from R90,000 ($6,220) to R120,000 ($8,230) per game and double that for a victorious match.
Consider the dual contracts rugby players can sign with South African as well as Japanese franchises – which can climb to about R13 million ($900,000) in East Asia alone. Such figures would make any of the female players’ eyes water.
An SA Rugby spokesperson says: “South African rugby is excited and committed to the challenge of growing women’s rugby in this country.
Our major challenge is the relatively small number of female players from which we can choose but we have addressed that by creating under-16 and under-18 competitions as well as establishing youth training centers around the country where female players can train and be upskilled.
“Only once we have reached a critical mass of female players will be able to think of professionalizing the women’s provincial game.”
What South African female footballers receive is a borderline insult.
A Banyana Banyana player, who has also played for the national team at Under-17 and Under-20 level, says, on condition of anonymity: “I didn’t receive any allowance for playing Under-17 and Under-20.
“With Banyana, I think it’s roughly R4,000 ($276) for being in camp for a week and if you win, you get a bonus of about R2,000 ($138).”
The women’s football team has qualified for the last two Olympic Games, in Britain and Brazil, while the men’s team has all but underperformed on the international stage. This has not prevented brand and sponsorship managers to jump towards the Premier Soccer League, making it the richest league on the African continent.
Women’s football in South Africa survives on the lone sponsorship from Sasol, who provide for an amateur league and the women’s national team needs. The paucity of resources also means that the sport fails to attract talented women, who would much rather earn a living in an office job.
A recent news report showed that Bafana Bafana players could get R40,000 ($2,767) to R60,000 ($4,150) per match, despite a chronic inability to qualify for major tournaments consistently. Banyana Banyana, by virtue of a 6-0 victory over Lesotho in June, qualified for the CAF Women Nations Cup to be held in Ghana later this year.
Recently appointed South African Football Association (SAFA) Vice-President, Ria Ledwaba, the first woman to hold the post, says a fresh approach to luring sponsors into the women’s game is needed. As it stands, Sasol is the biggest sponsor of women’s football, and they keep the lights on not just for the national team but the domestic Sasol League as well.
“We need other Sasols to come on board,” says Ledwaba.
“We want our girls to be encouraged to play soccer. They [probably] look at what Banyana are earning now and say, ‘What’s the point? It’s not going to take me another level’. But when you look at Bafana, you know what you get when you get called up and that’s because of a sponsor.
“Sometimes you must go to the market and get competent companies that are able to package sponsors in, and sell what Banyana have achieved. We need to draw in companies that sell products that are used by women and such. And if you don’t approach them, they won’t come to you.”
Former Banyana captain Amanda Dlamini, tweeted in May: “I’m still mad at myself for this, for allowing people to emotionally manipulate us of what we deserve [sic]. People make serious money with just under 50 caps of national duty. We still struggle to make ends meet during our prime & even after retirement.”
In that lone statement, the pitiful situation can be summed up.
– By Sibusiso Mjikeliso