Addressing the Gender Pay Gap in African Sports
As Nigeria celebrates its recent victory in the 2018 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, questions arise yet again about the gender pay gap in African sports.
South Africa has introduced several laws within the last decade aimed at promoting equality and representation for women in sports. Initiatives such as the National Sport and Recreation Amendment Act, the South African White Paper on Sport and Recreation, and the Transformation Charter for South African Sport identify women as a type of “marginalized” group in sports and seek to prioritize their representation in sports.
But women remain deprioritized and underrepresented in South African sports. The nation’s main sports — cricket, rugby, and football — have yet to consider establishing domestic professional leagues for women.
At the last women’s World Cup in 2014, the South African women’s rugby team received between R5,000 ($345) and R2,000 ($483) per match. In contrast, the men’s national rugby team makes between R90,000 ($6,220) and R120,000 ($8,230) per match — and double that amount if they are victorious. Male rugby players can also sign dual contracts with South African and Japanese franchises, which can earn them close to an additional R13 million ($900,000).
South Africa’s women’s football team has qualified for the last two Olympics, significantly outperforming their male counterparts; however, brand and sponsorship managers continue to flock toward the South African men’s league, the Premier Soccer League, making it the richest league in Africa. The women’s football team relies on a single sponsorship from the South African chemicals company, Sasol.
Procuring sufficient funding is among the largest obstacles faced by African female athletes.
In a November 2018 news report by BBC Sport Africa, one interviewee said “we would like women’s teams to be paid more, but the reality of the situation is that women’s football doesn’t get much sponsorship or TV coverage.” According to another interviewee, “women’s football currently isn’t making any profit. All the organizing costs, all the prize money is coming from the profit of organizing men’s tournaments.”
Lack of media coverage of women’s sports further contributes to a lack of funding. One interviewee said the women’s World Cup fails to receive even half of the following of the men’s World Cup, which he cites as the most followed event in the world.
According to the same report, the winner of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations is paid significantly less than not only senior men’s teams but also the male Under-17 and Under-20 teams. The women’s winner takes home $80,000, while the men’s Under-17 and Under-20 team take home $150,000 and $250,000, respectively.
Underrepresentation of women in sports is not solely an African problem. Take the United States, for example, where it is estimated that the lowest paid player in the NBA makes as much as five times more than the highest paid player in the WNBA.
According to Beatrice Frey of UN Women, “I cannot think of any other industry that has such a wage gap, really. Depending on country context and sport, a man can be a billionaire and a woman [in the same discipline] cannot even get a minimum salary.”
A few countries have begun to buck this trend, prioritizing equality between men and women in sport. In late 2017, the Norwegian Football Association and Norway’s Player’s Association signed an agreement on equal pay between its men and women’s football teams. The two bodies agreed to transfer 550,000 kroner ($60,000) that Norway’s male players receive for commercial activities to the women’s team in order to achieve parity.
In May 2018, agreements were reached securing equal payments and prize money for New Zealand’s men’s and women’s football teams. Prior to the agreement, the average woman playing in the FA Women's Super League was paid about one percent of the salary of a male Premier League player, despite the women’s team being ranked 20th in the world and the men’s team being ranked 133rd in the world.
That same month, Cricket South Africa CEO Thabang Moroe announced that he wanted to see men and women paid equally in the sport. “It’s high time that CSA puts its money where it’s mouth it. We’ve been saying that we want to look after our women cricketers and get them to a place where they are treated the same as the men’s professional cricketers,” he said.
Although resolutions have yet to be made in full, steps are being taken to address the inequality.
In Africa, as in much of the world, complete gender parity in sports will not be achieved any time soon. But with further initiatives and increased attention to the issue, strides will continue to be made towards equal pay for equal play.