21 May 2013 is now no ordinary day in the Australian sporting calendar. It will go down in history as the day that women’s sport took a giant leap towards professionalism.
On a sunny day in Sydney, with guests packed into Quay restaurant, James Sutherland, CEO of Cricket Australia, proudly announced that the Cricket Australia Board, led strongly by the current Chair, Wally Edwards, had taken the decision to allocate $1.59 million for the coming season for women’s player contracts at both Cricket Australia and State contract levels.
As James announced this, the room applauded the level of support the current crop of female athletes were about to receive.
In front of James sat a number of pioneers of the game, both on and off the field.
They included Maragret Jennings, who captained Australia in the 70′s and was also the Chair of selectors for the Southern Stars for a numbers of years; the Governor General, Quentin Bryce who not only is the Southern Stars number one supporter but who also played a significant role to ensuring integration of Women’s Cricket Australia and Cricket Australia; Australia’s most successful captain, Belinda Clark, who also holds one of the most important roles in Cricket Australia as the Senior Manager of the Centre of Excellence; and finally Rina Horem the first ever female to sit on a cricket board, Cricket NSW.
It must have been a very proud moment for those ladies, all of whom have spent countless hours on and off the field championing the women’s cause for better facilities, resources and the final hurdle, pay.
I believe that Rina was emotional when the announcement was made and all of us that were lucky enough to be invited will never forget the special day.
With this amount of money available to players it will see CA’s top contracts move from $15,000 to $52,000 and the minimum contract increased from $5,000 to $25,000. Gone are the days where the Australian team ran raffles to raise money for their tour, knit their own Test jumper on the boat to England and take leave without pay to play for their country.
Other increases included players’ tour allowance going from $100 per day to $250 per day. With a busy schedule ahead of our Southern Stars, with up to 85 days of touring, this will mean the top female cricketers have the potential to earn $70,000 to $80,000 for next season.
For me the biggest and most important announcement of the day was when James explained that each State Association and Cricket ACT would be allocated $100,000 a year towards contracts for their female players, with the maximum retainer being $7,000 and the minimum $2,500.
In addition, all female domestic players will also receive match payment for the first time, with a 50-over match (WNCL) earning $200 and a T20 (WT20) earning $120.
This will be the first time across the board that domestic players will have an opportunity to come out even at the end of the cricket season, instead of representing your State being an expense.
For a long time the players have felt that the domestic competition isn’t as strong as it could be, with players aged over 25 unable to commit to the domestic expectations due to their desire for a career and their need to earn money.
This money will hopefully allow those types of players a chance to stay longer in the game because they won’t need to juggle between University, part-time job, training requirements, and of course playing days.
I had always hoped that female cricketers would be able to achieve this level of support, but thought that it would still be a few years away.
With the recent success of the Southern Stars, by winning both the T20 and 50 over World Cups within a six month period, it has seen an unprecedented amount of media attention and support for the females who play cricket, and this has prompted the board to act.
I hope this will prompt other sporting organisations to act accordingly, where they have the financial resources in the game to do so, and support their female athletes appropriately. Hats off to Cricket Australia who have led the way in this field.
Look out everyone, the Southern Stars are here to play!
NOTE: I write a weekly article for The Roar sports website. This article also appears on The Roar website at www.roar.com.au