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Is Sport Becoming More Equitable?

We outline five areas in which some progress has been made.

BY Agnes Amondi

Mar 07, 2023, 07:41 AM

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For the longest time, women's sports have played second fiddle to men’s sports. Women who dedicate their lives to pursuing a professional athletics career had to beg for a place, play with men - although this happened up to a certain age - and justify themselves over and over again just to be respected and taken seriously.

Over the years, sportswomen have fought battles with nearly everyone in their field to break the stereotypes and perceptions that people have of them. Today, that fight has led to the continued acceptance of women’s place in the sports industry. 

The changes that have taken place are having a positive impact as young girls are now aspiring to become professional footballers, basketballers, and rugby players. Plus, more girls can dare to dream of one day leading their nations at the biggest events. Things are not perfect but we want to appreciate the strides made. 

Equal Pay Is Becoming A Reality.

South African Women Football Team. @BanyanaBanyana
This has to be one of the biggest conversations surrounding women’s sports and mostly football. Whether or not you closely follow women’s football, you will have heard of the dispute between the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) and its federation, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). Despite them losing their case initially, they have since reached a settlement that sees them and the men getting paid equally. 

Back home, Sierra Leone became the first federation to pay its men's and women's football teams equally. The South African Football Association (SAFA) followed suit and vowed to pay its women’s football team popularly known as Banyana Banyana the same as the men. 

It is slow but good and assuring progress in the continent considering that a lot of things are still not in favour of female footballers here. 

Proper Playing Kits And Merchandising.

This might sound trivial but for the longest time, female athletes have had to use men’s kits. The sight of women players wearing oversized uniforms was common but that has now changed. Federations around the world are now offering players customised and well-fitting kits. 

Additionally, kit sponsors are also cognizant of these changes and are now selling women’s wear. It’s worth noting that in 2019, the United States Women's Team’s jersey set a record sale of the most sold Nike jersey in a single season.

More Visibility As A Result Of Increasing Coverage.

Seeing women’s sports on television is becoming a normal thing. Now more than ever, broadcasters are signing deals to televise women’s sports, particularly global ones.

For example, the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations was on the pan-African broadcaster Supersport as will be the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament in the summer. Additionally, it is also receiving editorial coverage in websites and newspapers. 

Away from the field of play, women are also getting the chance to be part of the broadcasting teams as commentators, analysts and writers, spaces that they rarely inhabited in the past.

Female sports journalists are now getting an opportunity to work on prime sporting events and are demonstrating that they are just as knowledgeable as their male counterparts.

In 2019, Nigerian broadcaster Janine Anthony became the first female lead commentator at a major men’s tournament in the continent.  

Teams Developing Women's Sides.

Sports teams are increasingly establishing women’s sides and departments to provide a pathway for young girls to pursue professional sports and have representation at the top level of sports. This means that when girls get to their adolescent years, they won’t be forced to quit sports as they have an avenue to continue with their careers. 

For instance, some of the top teams in the South African Women’s League which is considered one of the best in the continent have an equivalent side to the men’s team.  

Improving Policies To Support Players.

In 2020, FIFA legislated a law that protects female football players from losing their careers in the event that they decide to start a family while still active. Previously, some players reported that their contracts were cancelled after they disclosed that they were expectant.

Some clubs deemed them as a liability as they’d be out for months in the lead-up to their delivery and after giving birth. The law doesn’t seem to have properly taken root as Norway player Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir said that her club Lyon mistreated her during her pregnancy. She filed a lawsuit against them and was fully compensated. 

As such, it is important that FIFA and other bodies as well as brand sponsors follow up on the law to ensure that female athletes can still have their careers after giving birth.