While I enjoyed watching the Matildas play in Perth as much as the next fan, it made me reflect on the challenges Australia’s professional netballers face within Australia’s corporate-sports landscape.
Meaningful corporate sponsorship and media interest in women’s soccer has only recently been achieved in Australia, but soccer’s contrast with netball appears stark.
While female participation in soccer is on the rise, netball remains the highest participation female team sport in Australia, most likely counting many of Australia’s best female athletes in its ranks.
But, in the recent sports sponsorship controversy involving both the Australian Diamonds and West Coast Fever, the position of some commentators seemed to be that netball players should be grateful they get support at all. And, in the players’ current pay dispute with Netball Australia, administrators say they can’t afford to give players a share of the revenue they help generate.
It’s great that corporate Australia is getting behind women’s participation in traditionally male sports, but, given men’s interest in these codes, I wonder if this is the easier starting point. Getting similarly enthusiastic about the sport most Australian women choose to play would be a sign business was genuine about promoting gender equality through sports sponsorship.
And, having had sore knees for about six months after participating in Netball WA’s corporate challenge earlier this year, I reckon professional netballers deserve every bit of money and respect that would come their way.
This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.