#BeBoldforChange is this year’s theme. As far as sport is concerned, we are increasingly witnessing exciting examples of change in approach to women’s sport across the board, and in particular, for football codes.
Exposure to outstanding matches over the last 12 months, the Matilda’s Asia Cup and Olympic Games efforts, Australia Rugby 7’s Gold, and National Competitions of W – League and AFL. It is all starting to gather massive momentum and exposure. NRL is a little late to the table but we look forward to 2018 with the announcement of a national competition.
Yes, it has been a long time coming for the football as a whole, in particular for the many women who have spent years supporting, participating and promoting the virtues of their chosen football code. Now that the national and governing entities have stepped up to be more inclusive, the community at large is not only embracing the athlete’s skills, abilities and match excitement, but there is also audible chat about what women footballers are contributing in terms tangible displays of values such as commitment, determination, fairness, discipline and every level of diversity, just to name a few.
Along with the athletes, we have also seen a rise in informed and captivating commentary from every aspect of the media. Women commentators for the footy codes are popping up everywhere, dissecting every aspect of tactical play and code nuances so we, the greater audience become more informed and appreciative of whatever code we have tuned into. Should media access not be mainstream TV – no matter – there are other ways to skin a cat and innovative commentators are tapping into social football communities and the droves of fans tuning in and sharing insights and opinions with equally informed enthusiasm.
The main driver to keep the momentum going is to keep the focus on two things: the ‘right to have opportunity’ and ‘the sport’ itself for what it is.
Football codes and female athletes, along with other sports such as netball, basketball, hockey and cricket are not only finally getting recognition but our athletes are providing inspiration, direction and aspiration to many sporting families.
The main driver to keep the momentum going is to keep the focus on two things: the ‘right to have opportunity’ and ‘the sport’ itself for what it is. Without having the same opportunity for male and female athletes, the second point, the sport itself whatever the code, won’t become the focus and equality will never be achieved.
‘The right to have opportunity’ immediately diffuses the argument that perhaps some men may be stronger, faster etc. than some women and therefore better to watch and admire. The ‘Opportunity’ is about having equal access to the facilities, coaches, financial support and technologies so that every person who chooses to excel has the chance to be the best athlete in that particular code or sport. Once we embrace the concept for ‘the right to have the opportunity’ it will then follow that we will focus on the actual sport for what it is and the appreciation for what each athlete regardless of gender brings to that sport.
Tennis has had this right for decades. So much so that we as tennis enthusiasts either tune in or go to the tennis surprisingly enough, to see our favourite players and to see tennis! It’s about the whole event! The Australian Open is exactly that. We all enjoy seeing the best women and the best men in the world and don’t we love it. We love Tennis and we love our Tennis Players – We all have our favourites and all for different reasons, some for their power, some for their athleticism and some for their mental determination. Some are just great personalities and entertainers too! Those players also have received access to the same support mechanisms to allow them to get to these top international events. The opportunities for coaching, facilities, sponsorships and tournament winnings are on par.
It was an epic battle (to say the least) for equal opportunity by earlier tennis greats Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Virginia Wade and Martina Navratilova – stoic, vocal women, top of the tree in their chosen sport, Being Bold for Change, and who eventually pushed through to prove the points of access to same opportunity for female athletes and then brought it back into line regarding the promotion of tennis as a sport for all.
Athletics and swimming you could argue are similar, culminating in global events like the Olympic Games and true World Championship events, and seemingly the same opportunity to access the best coaches, technologies and facilities. Cricket seems to be heading in the right direction too.
So for all our female footballers out there, commentators and fans, and all who have compelling stories to tell in Sport – Happy International Women’s Day 2017 and may you keep on Being Bold for Change.
To all the footballing hierarchy – Happy International Women’s Day to you too – and may you continue to be bold as well and pledge to even up the stakes! Keep the conversations focussed on the ‘right to have the opportunity’ to foster our best athletes equally and it will be a win/win for both – the athlete and the sport. The rest of the barriers will tumble.
May you all one day become tennis players – figuratively speaking of course!
Happy International Women’s Day #BeBoldForChange
Many thanks and best wishes in your footballing careers to:
Sammy Maxwell – Rugby Union Player
Iesha Rebello De Andrade – Football (round-ball) Player
Ella Ross – Australian Rules Player