Never before have women’s sports been so prominent in Australia.
The success of the Matildas at the FIFA World Cup gave Australians a moment to cherish that rivalled the 2000 Olympic Games.
That followed the ongoing success of the Australian women’s cricket team, who won the T20 World Cup in February.
Meanwhile, the success of the Women’s Big Bash League has helped pave the way for other women’s team sports like the AFLW and the NRLW.
Despite the rise of women’s sporting competitions in Australia, it’s no secret that the pay our elite women receive generally still lags behind their male counterparts, although there are exceptions.
Football Australia’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement with Professional Footballers Australia for the Matildas and Socceroos has pay equity at its core.
The same is not true for domestic soccer players with the women lagging far behind the men in the A-Leagues.
That situation is repeated across the board, although women are (slowly) catching up.
A full-time professional sporting career is the dream of all elite sportswomen and for some it’s becoming a reality.
In recent months, several sporting organisations have signed new pay agreements with their players, including Football Australia, the AFL, and Cricket Australia.
The one stand-out is Netball Australia, which is still locked in a bitter dispute with its players who have now gone without pay since the beginning of October.
So, with pay agreements locked away for almost all the major domestic and international sports, now is a good time to look at exactly what our elite sportswomen are getting paid to play team sports and how their pay compares across sports.
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But first, a caveat — there is rarely a straight comparison. Where possible we have tried to compare like for like, but trying to tease out the hidden figures can be difficult.
Levels of professionalism and season lengths all vary, as do the disparities between players in domestic leagues and those playing for their country.
The figures that ABC Sport have compiled come from the various sports, clubs and players associations.
Who’s on top in the domestic leagues?
Players in the Women’s National Cricket League earn a minimum of $54,557 a year.(Getty Images: Mark Brake)
If we start with the minimum payments, it’s our cricketers who can earn the most money. A player in the Women’s National Cricket League earns a minimum of $54,557 and that’s before add-ons like match fees, prize money and superannuation.
Cricketers can also augment their salaries if they are on a WBBL contract – the minimum is $17,388, again without the add-ons.
Coming in second are AFLW players who recently signed a new pay deal. The women are getting a minimum of $50,547 this year, but that will rise to $69,355 by the final year of the deal in 2027.
The minimum for netballers under the old deal is $43,000, A-League soccer players get $25,000, and basketballers are at $20,000.
At the bottom of the table are Super Rugby players, who get a $4,000 retainer from Rugby Australia with club payments on top. For example, the Waratahs pay up to $5,000 for their top tier players and $3,000 for other players.
So those are the minimums, but what about average payments?
Again the cricketers come out on top.
The average wage for a cricketer playing in the WNCL is $62,351 and the WBBL is $48,442.
Cricket Australia says its players on WNCL and WBBL contracts can earn on average $151,019, including super, prize money, match fees and so on.
As the chart shows, only women playing in both the WBBL and WNCL can expect to earn more than the average salary for all full-time female workers in Australia.
The WNBL says its average salary is $43,000 in cash, but claims the average is pushed up to $76,000 when you include non-financial extras such as cars, accommodation, and education fees.
The Super Netball players were paid an average of $74,000 under the old deal. But again, there’s no way of knowing what’s coming next with negotiations on a new deal at a standstill.
In fourth place come the AFLW players, who will earn on average $59,701 this season, rising to $82,000 by 2027.
NRLW average salaries are $37,500, rising to $63,250 by 2027.
But this is where comparisons can be difficult.
Our domestic cricketers with state contracts are paid for every week of the year.
AFL players were paid for 39 weeks this year, but from next year will be paid for the full 52 weeks. By contrast, NRLW players were paid for 20 weeks this year and that will rise to 23 weeks by 2027.
A-League players are paid for 35 weeks and the WNBL players receive a salary for 26 weeks.
So if we look at the average earnings per week of contract, we get a different figure.
NRLW players earn an average of $1,875 a week — by 2027 this will rise to $2,750 a week.(Getty Images: Bradley Kanaris)
Once again, for comparison we’ve added in the national average and minimum wage figures for all women workers in Australia.
A cricketer with an average state contract will earn $1,200 per week, but given around 80 per cent of those women also play in the WBBL, they could expect to earn around $2,904 with prize money and match fees thrown in.
This season, AFLW players earn $1,530 per week, while NRLW players get $1,875 per week.
By 2027, AFLW players will earn on average $1,576 per week, while NRLW will get $2,750 per week.
The basketballers will get $2,923 – based on the $76,000 figure — and the soccer players get just $714 per week – based on the minimum salary.
We’re using the minimum salary because the A-League averages won’t be known until the end of the season.
In soccer, the average has less meaning, because the figure can be blown out by the big salaries paid to one or two marquee players. In previous seasons, the median salary has only been marginally above the minimum.
WNBL players, like contemporaries in a number of sports, are likely to have to work a second job to make ends meet. (AAP: James Ross)
Given the different season lengths most domestic players in the NRLW, soccer’s A-League and the female basketballers (because almost half their salaries come in non-cash payments) will almost certainly have to have second jobs.
An AFLW player could potentially get by on some part-time work, and some may be able to survive as a professional full-time athlete.
This next chart shows how much an average athlete would get in their sport per week if their salary was averaged out over a whole year.
Maximum payments are harder to determine. For example the AFLW allows for two players per teams to earn a maximum of $92,796 this season, but the NRLW doesn’t have a set maximum — rather it’s up to clubs to work within their salary caps.
What about national teams?
Again our cricketers are the winners.
The minimum payment for an Australian cricketer with a contract is $88,845, while the players earning the maximum can take home up to $800,000 per year including their WBBL payments – with some earning over a million if they have an Indian Premier League contract.
The Matildas have a new CBA which puts them at level-pegging with their male counterparts, the Socceroos.
Previously 23 players were on contracts and paid by tiers form $50,000 per year to $115,000. Under soccer’s CBA there must be a minimum of 11 players on tier one and a maximum of 12 on tiers two and three.
Under the new agreement, all players will be paid match fees starting at $7,000 for the rest of this financial year and rising to $10,000 for the remainder of the deal which ends after the next World Cup in 2027.
In addition, players will be paid an extra 30 per cent in commercial payments of whatever they earn at the end of the financial year.
Even players who aren’t selected for games will get paid match fees provided they’re in camp with the rest of the squad for at least seven days.
The new match payment system makes it harder to come up with an annual salary, because the amount of games the Matildas play each year varies. This year, they played 18 games, last year it was 17, but in the previous World Cup year of 2019, they played just 11.
But if we take 15 games as a rough average, a Matilda who plays every game can expect to earn $150,000 plus 30 per cent which amounts to $195,000.
Prize money adds to that enormously. This year, each of the 23 players in the Matildas’ squad took home $232,000 for coming fourth at the World Cup.
Under the new agreement, players will receive 50 per cent of any prize money they earn with the remainder going to Football Australia. It’s the same deal for the Socceroos.
Players in the Australian Rugby 7s team earn on average $110,000 per year – the same as the men under that code’s pay deal.
By contrast, international female rugby players in the 15-a-side game — the Wallaroos — earn between $30,000 and $52,000 per year including their Super W payments.
The disparity has prompted the Wallaroos to act, with the side protesting in August at their treatment compared to their male counterparts.
The players individually posted the same letter to Rugby Australia calling out the lack of investment and what they perceived as second-rate treatment by the governing body.
“You told us flying anything beyond economy was too costly. Then you flew the Wallabies business class on a trip shorter than ours,” the letter reads.
“It’s time for the chairman, board and CEO to prioritise the future of Australian Women’s Rugby and allocate adequate resources.”
By contrast the members of the Australian women’s rugby league team, the Jillaroos, earn the same as their male counterparts on a pro-rata basis.
Last year, the Jillaroos were paid $30,000 each to play at the World Cup and also got a bonus $4,285 in prize money for winning the cup.
The men were paid $40,000 each because their competition was longer.
Australia’s netballers, the Diamonds, receive a payment of about $5,000 per year but are paid per diems of $450 for each day they are in camp with the squad and $600 during the World Cup.
The women’s basketball team, the Opals wouldn’t provide ABC sport with pay details, citing confidentiality.
— with Cody Atkinson and Sean Lawson
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Source: AFL NEWS ABC