Women are being urged to “claim their place” in the sporting landscape in a push to drive up the profile of female sport, improve standards and help inspire the next generation.
Elite female athletes will feature on billboards across Victoria as part of the $7 million #ChangeOurGame campaign launched by the Victorian Government and VicHealth.
The money will go towards building the profile of female athletes, increasing viewership, and boosting participation amongst females who do not play organised or competitive sports.
The AFLW, WBBL and WNBL will be involved in the campaign.
Minister for Heath Jill Hennessy said women were underrepresented in almost all facets of sport participation and management.
“There is pay disparity, we’ve got women wanting to participate in sport where they don’t have the facilities available to them, where the culture has not changed adequately,” she said.
“It’s about sending that message that sport isn’t just for the elite women. Sport is for every woman and every girl.
“There is a place for you in sport and we are going to go out and claim it for you.
Money fuels high standards, high standards brings money
One of the highest-profile female footballers Daisy Pearce said the lack of income from advertising had held the standard of women’s sport back.
“There probably hasn’t been enough media coverage to provide the commercial dollars that help to fund the male wages,” she said.
“But without that money, it’s never been at a standard that demands that coverage. I think we’re at a really exciting time at the moment because that cycle’s been broken.
“I think we’ll be able to see more sponsors and more financial backing … and that hopefully an increased standard, higher profile athletes, more coverage. I think it will really take off from here.”
Girls no longer have to look up to male stars
Australian cricket captain Meg Lanning said she grew up playing with boys but now there were more opportunities for young girls to participate.
“It’s about being inspired by athletes at the top level. My [hero] was Ricky Ponting because that’s all I saw when I was growing up,” she said.
“It’s great now that young girls have Ellyse Perry, Daisy Pearce to look up to, and young girls have a clear pathway to the elite level, or they can just get involved and really enjoy themselves at community level.”
‘Women’s sport has come a long way’
The campaign comes on the eve of the first round of the inaugural AFLW season this weekend
Over summer, the WBBL received solid ratings on free-to-air television, while netball now has a healthy media deal.
Retired Diamonds captain and netball legend Sharelle McMahon said women’s sport had come a long way.
“When my netball career began we were playing once a week, training a couple of times a week and getting paid absolutely nothing,” she said.
“Now there’s a daily training environment, our athletes are getting paid between $40,000 and $60,000 a season, and there’s free-to-air TV rights.”
But all of the athletes taking part in the campaign said there was still a long way to go before women were on equal footing with the men.
Featured image: Victorian Government
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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