Mind the gap: Women in South African sports fall way short

The pay gap between male and female professional athletes in South Africa is so wide, it seems they’re playing vastly different sports.

With a lump in her throat, Andile Dlamini speaks about the injustice women suffer in sport due to the huge pay gap between them and their male counterparts.

But she tries to hide the disappointment in her body language, a defence mechanism that helps her cope because if she took everything to heart, she wouldn’t have been playing football at the highest level for more than a decade.

The 25-year-old from Tembisa was her usual bubbly self at the Nike Training Centre in Soweto. These personality traits make her one of the favourites in Banyana Banyana. Her charisma and sense of humour lifts the team in difficult moments.

Those difficult moments aren’t just the obstacles they face on the pitch, they are also challenges they face in life as they try to survive with the paltry earnings they receive for representing their country. Banyana Banyana players earn R4 000 for a draw and R5 700 for a win in a competitive match. That’s peanuts compared to the R60 000 that Bafana Bafana players get for a win and R30 000 for a draw.

Bafana players also draw salaries from their clubs. Dlamini and company have no such luxury. In fact, Dlamini and her Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies teammates allegedly get a R500 monthly stipend from the Pretoria giants, who are bankrolled by billionaire Patrice Motsepe. Dlamini paused before answering how the life she is living stacks up against what she thought life would be like as the first choice goalkeeper for her club and country.

“When you think about playing football for a very big team, you expect that you will live a lavish life. That’s before I even thought of playing for the national team or even playing in the [proposed] national league [scheduled for launch next year],” says Dlamini. “[After more than 10 years in the game,] I thought by now I would be on the level of the Siphiwe Tshabalalas and Itumeleng Khunes of this world, who live so nice.

I don’t like complaining. Our time will come.

“That hasn’t happened. But at the same time I live a very happy life with the little that I have and with what Sasol [Banyana sponsors] give us. I don’t like complaining. Our time will come. My time to be filthy rich with money, because my soul is filthy rich, will come and when that time comes, I will rejoice.”

Dlamini and her teammates have to balance football with school or work to make a decent living because they wouldn’t survive just by playing football. Dlamini is a singer under the stage name Andy-D. She is also a goalkeeper coach who holds a D License endorsed by the SA Football Association (Safa).

A common strand running through the argument on the gender pay gap in sport is that sponsors and viewers are more interested in the men’s game. “Historically, sponsors are tied with men’s football. Most of the money goes to that and we have to use that money to subsidise the women and junior national teams.

We constantly engage the sponsors about that. Take the SABC, for instance. When we signed a broadcasting deal with them for Bafana matches, we ensured that Banyana games are attached to that deal and that their games are shown on SABC 1, which has more viewers, and not on SABC 3. There is a structural gap that we need to bridge,” says Safa CEO Dennis Mumble.

But it’s not just money that women don’t get enough of in football. They also aren’t afforded the same respect as their male counterparts. Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies returned to training at their base in Chloorkop last season after they were thrown into the wilderness.

The 2015 Fifa Women’s World Cup was played on an artificial pitch in Canada, something that would never happen in the men’s tournament. “We played the (20th) men’s World Cup in 2014, when we are now playing the seventh women’s World Cup,” former Fifa secretary-general Jérôme Valcke was quoted as saying at the pre-draw press conference of the 2015 Fifa Women’s World Cup. “We still have another (13) World Cups before potentially women should receive the same amount as men. The men waited until 2014 to receive as much money as they receive.”

The winners of the 2015 Fifa Women’s World Cup, which took place in the US, received $2 million, while the French men’s team pocketed $38 million for their recent triumph in Russia in the 2018 Fifa World Cup.

Mumble argues that Safa has laid the groundwork to bridge the gap with a constitution that insists women feature in the executive committee and that one woman must be the vice-president at regional, provincial and national level. But Ria Ledwaba, the Safa vice-president, once said Banyana players need to “learn to act like ladies” because “at the moment you can’t tell if they’re men or women”.

That means this problem will not just be solved by having more women in power, although that’s a step in the right direction, but it will be solved by having the right people in charge – men and women who have the players’ interests at heart.

Mumble agrees that women and men should be paid equally when representing their country. “I have raised the matter with the finance committee. They will take the matter to the executive committee and on September 1 we should start charting a way forward to bridge the gap,” he says.

I would love for the next generation to get things easy, not the hard way like us.

Many promises have been made to Dlamini and her teammates in the past. They’ve become hardened and their reactions to hearing any promise from the governing body is now met with a wait-and-see attitude. “I would love for the next generation to get things easy, not the hard way like us,” says Dlamini.

“I would love for them to get a lot of camps, get the national league going and be properly remunerated. When I say national league, I mean a professional league whereby they will be professional athletes and decide that I will only play football for my livelihood and I can survive or I will play football and study. At the moment, we don’t have that choice. We have to study or do other jobs and play football because we can’t survive only on football.”

One Springbok earns more than the entire women’s sevens squad combined

Women in rugby have a similar problem, albeit slightly better compared to Banyana.

The best example of how women’s rugby in South Africa is an afterthought is SA Rugby’s current delay in renewing the contracts of the national women’s sevens team.

Contract renewals were supposed to have been completed in July, but only now, six weeks later, it seems a resolution is on the cards. This waiting period was greeted with much angst by Paul Delport, the women’s sevens coach, amid talk of a strike by the players.

The reason given was that due to a change in administration at SA Rugby, signing the new contracts fell between the cracks created. But would this clerical error have been made if it were the men’s national teams?

Not that there is a pot of gold awaiting the women’s sevens team at the end of all the unnecessary upheaval, if the annual figures from last year’s salaries structures are anything to go by.

From a total expenditure of R101.6 million on player salaries by SA Rugby last year, the women’s sevens team – who are the only contracted women’s squad as there is currently no national women’s 15s side – only received R2 877 600 of that pie, while the Blitzboks (22 players) commanded almost R14 million, with the Springboks taking the lion’s share of close to R85 million.

Put another way, on average, each of the contracted Springboks (16) last year made more (R5.3 million each) individually than the whole women’s sevens squad put together, in addition to their franchise contracts.

The R2 877 600 was shared among 13 contracted women’s sevens players, the lowest salary being R184 800, the average remuneration at R221 354 and the highest women’s package costing SA Rugby R264 000.

Contrast that with the numbers for the men’s sevens side. The highest earner in the Blitzbokke bags R1.1 million, with the team’s average annual salary R630 000 and the lowest R120 000 (a contract awarded for men’s academy players straight out of school).

Of course, the fact that the Blitzbokke have been the country’s flag bearers, performance-wise over the last two years, having won the World Sevens Series title back-to-back and taking bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games, means they have earned their keep.

But for their highest earner to make more than four times than his women’s counterpart suggests the chasm in salary between the two is such that they may as well be playing different sports.

This is at a time when more progressive unions like New Zealand Rugby are thinking of paying the men’s and women’s sevens teams the same, with massive adjustments being made to the women’s 15s players after they won the 2017 women’s World Cup.

CSA’s new MOU bridging the gender pay gap between cricketers

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has the most progressive stance in their treatment of women on national duty compared to football and rugby.

In July, CSA brought an end to their protracted negotiations with the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) by finally announcing a new memorandum of understanding (MOU). While it may well have merely been a case of “better late than never” for the men, the new agreement held many surprises and a few firsts for the women cricket players, who earned their right to elbow for recognition at cricket’s top table by reaching the Women’s Cricket World Cup semifinals last year. While pay is still not the same, some real strides have been made for women’s cricket in the agreement, especially on the benefits front. SACA chief executive Tony Irish detailed the advancements in an interview with New Frame.

New Frame: Should men and women be paid the same when they represent their country?

Tony Irish: I think it’s not really a question of equal pay, it’s a question of parity. We believe there should be parity in pay and benefits. If you look at where the women’s game is going we believe women should be given parity, which has resulted in a substantial pay increase in the last year and a half. As far as monetary amounts go, they are proportionate on a parity basis and take into account the amount of cricket played, and the men currently play more.

NF: Why is there such a gap between what women and men earn in the same duty of representing their country?

TI: The value of the cricket played and the commercial value of that cricket are the historical reasons, and they exist in every country. But the most important thing is we’re trying to address it. The good thing about cricket is that there is a general movement across the board to advance the women’s game. The objective is to close the gap (salaries between men and women) and it has closed in the last year and a half. Whether we will reach that point where there is exact equality is a real challenge, not just for South Africa but across the world.

NF: What are you doing to bridge the pay gap?

TI: The inclusion of the women in our new MOU with CSA is how we’re bridging it. There has been a more than 100% increase in the pool of money for the contracted national women’s players – four years ago, there were no contracted players and now we have 14 – in the last 18 months, which means it has more than doubled, and parity in benefits. By that we mean the same class of air travel, hotel accommodation and medical benefits. Some of the new things we’ve introduced are retirement payments – which until recently weren’t there – and for the first time the women will share in the revenue share model with CSA. The revenue share model is based on CSA’s forecast of revenue over four years and a percentage of that goes to players. If they manage to beat their expectations the players get a share of the excess revenue.

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