Mon | Nov 19, 2018

Dalton Myers | Cricket - still a man's game - A cry for equality

Published:Saturday | October 27, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Britney Cooper (right) celebrates the fall of a wicket with team-mates during the first ODI between Windies and England at the Trelawny Multipurpose Stadium in 2016. Others from left are: Anisa Mohammed, Merissa Aguilleira and, Deandra Dottin.

The ICC Women's World T20 is set to begin in about two weeks in the Caribbean. The Stafanie Taylor-led Windies Women are gearing up to defend the title they won in 2016 in England. It is against this backdrop that we are now encouraged to examine gender equity and sport.

Earlier this week, the Federation of International Cricket Associations (FICA) released its 2018 Women's Global Employment Market Report and Survey. The results are geared towards fostering a better understanding of the game of cricket and women's employment, and further identified twenty (20) key findings.

I will focus on five of them.

Firstly, the report found that there has been significant progress for women's cricket, but there's still more work to be done. Over the past 2-3 years, there has been the successful hosting of international women's cricket competitions, as well as negotiations of central contracts for women. It is important to see the women's games as a profession rather than an amateur pursuit. Secondly, the report argued that most of the cricketing nations lacked a professional structure for women's cricket. A professional set-up would include a very structured women's domestic league that facilitates honing the skills of cricketers and assisting with talent identification. Such structures help players see a career pathway for success. Without them, there is a challenge in showing female players how they can benefit financially from sports.

 

Low remuneration

 

Additionally, the report suggested that remuneration is low and there's a lack of basic rights and protections for women cricketers. Despite the successful implementation of women's T20 leagues, some cricketers still struggle to survive on the remuneration from playing in these leagues as well as the benefits under their respective central contracts. This has caused many women not to continue playing the sport.

Importantly, the report also identified gender inequality as a main issue for women's cricket. This was the central theme of the report, as many players believe that there is inequality in terms of treatment, opportunities and investment in them as a team or as individuals.

Finally, the report suggested that there is a need to have more women involved in the game as administrators, coaches and support staff. This, it argued, would help with identifying with the needs of female cricketers and pushing related policies that seek to address these needs.

The issues facing the Windies women are not dissimilar to these of other cricketing nations with maybe Australia and England considered to have organised women's cricket structures. While there have been improvements in cricket in the Caribbean with an increase in the number of women on retainer contracts to approximately 14, there are still issues facing the Caribbean team that hinder the development of the game at the youth level. This is especially because the territorial boards do not make enough investments in the teams locally.

The 2018 report indicated that the treatment of women's cricket including the West Indies team, has improved but falls short of some of the expectations of a team that can provide an avenue for professional career development.

I think the report is spot on with much of the observations in the Caribbean but could have delved more into the sociopolitical issues surrounding cricket in the West Indies that would also affect the women's sport. Additionally, it falls short in identifying cultural issues such as agents of socialisation (church, media, school) that have been placing women's sport in general on the backburner. So, while the consumption of sport is supposed to be market-driven, that is not the case as agents such as the media pay little attention to women's sport, especially in a space that is driven by patriarchy and hegemonic masculinity.

I think the report is a start, though, and will help to push some of the discussions on women and cricket. I hope for the next report there will be more discussions about barriers to entry for women who want to be part of the administration of cricket as well as the lack of support from Governments in supporting women's sport - in this case, cricket. I do agree that there have been significant improvements in the administration and structure of women cricket, but more drastic improvements are needed.

- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com