Gender-Neutral Travel Policies A Must For Sporting Codes: Government

03/02/2016 11:47 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 5: Australia's players celebrate their win agaist Turkey in the 2014 FIBA Women's World Championships 3rd place basketball match at Fenerbahce Ulker Sports Arena on October 5, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Getty Images)

Sporting codes could lose millions in federal government funding if they do not ensure travel arrangements for female athletes are the same standards as their male counterparts.

Minister for Sport Sussan Ley and Australian Sports Commission Chair John Wylie AM have written to the country’s top 30 funded sporting organisations highlighting progress in women’s sport but also calling on them for continued support and growth.

In 2012 female athletes in some sports were relegated to economy class when travelling to the London olympics, while their male counterparts traveled in business -- a decision that sparked outrage.

As part of the letter, the Federal Government is proposing to make gender-neutral travel policies for senior major championships a condition of investment by the ASC in a sport.

“The Turnbull Government and the ASC are committed to the fair recognition and reward of elite female athletes, and to the promotion of female participation in all levels and forms of Australian sport,” Ley said in a statement.

“In 2016 we can think of no defensible reason why male and female athletes should travel in different classes or stay in different standard accommodation when attending major international sporting events such as world cups or championships.

sussan ley

Health minister Sussan Ley says there is "no defensible reason why male and female athletes should travel in different classes."

Former Matildas captain Kathryn Gill said she welcomed the news, but it is very long overdue.

"It's something that should've happened some time ago," she told ABC News 24.

"The conversation has started, a long-overdue conversation has started but now, heads are turning and hopefully this will just continue to keep the ball moving forward."

In 2012 a Fairfax investigation revealed The Opals flew premium economy to London, while the national women's soccer and cricket teams are flown economy, while their male counterparts' teams travel in business -- despite the women's teams having much higher international rankings.

"The publicity was negative for a reason: it doesn't stand up," Basketball Australia chief executive officer Anthony Moore told the ABC.

He said the Opals now travel in business class to international events like the Olympics and the World Championship, but also overseas friendly matches.

"It was a pretty easy one to rectify," Mr Moore said.

"We get a significant amount of taxpayers' money, via the Australian Sports Commission, for our high-performance program.

"So I think the average man and woman in the street would believe that we would apply those funds equally when it comes to matters such as travel."

The Australian Government -- through the Australian Institute of Sport - directly invests in more than 800 of Australia's athletes under its direct Athlete Investment (dAIS) programme. More than 50 percent of recipients are women.

Ms Ley said ASC research showed Women's sport captures less than 10 percent of all commercial sponsorship while Australia’s elite female athletes taking out some big wins -- including the Diamonds 2015 Netball World Cup win, the Southern Stars claiming cricket’s Ashes, Michelle Payne becoming the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.

However the government has been encouraged by the rising influence of female administrators on sporting boards, but Ley continued progress.

In 2013 the ASC released governance principles calling on top-funded sports to work towards a target of 40 percent of female representation on boards.

The average level of female representation on the boards of the top-22 funded sports has since increased by 12 percent, jumping from 27 percent in 2013 to 39 percent.

“Australian sport is unquestionably better for this progress,” Ley said.

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