Embracing Equity in the Sports Industry | Denton

There have been a myriad of successful achievements by sportswomen in the UK in recent years. England’s female footballers have won the UEFA European Women’s Championship and England’s rugby team, currently the top women’s team in the world, have reached the final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup. These achievements have brought much more attention to women’s sport, but there are still steps to be taken to provide a better (and equal) landscape for women employed in sport. In this article, we examine two recent developments in labor law in women’s sport.

Maternity policies

The Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) new maternity, pregnancy and adoption leave policy has been hailed as a significant step forward which normalizes parenthood in professional sport.

Under the policy:

pregnant players will benefit from an increased level of job security. If a player is under contract and the contracts are renegotiated or extended while she is on pregnancy or maternity leave, she will have her contract extended for a minimum period of 12 months; players are now entitled to 26 weeks of fully paid maternity leave; players selected within 12 months of the birth or adoption of a child are now eligible for funding for travel and accommodation costs for children under 12 months and a support person to accompany them during matches or during training camps; the RFU will pay specialist physiotherapists to monitor players before and after childbirth, so that players’ needs can be assessed to support their recovery; and pregnant players have the ability to go through a risk assessment to determine other duties they can take on within the game until their maternity leave begins.

By way of comparison with other sports in the UK, the England and Wales Cricket Board guarantees players full pay for the first 13 weeks after giving birth and provides 90% of players’ full pay for the 20 weeks after that. 13 weeks.

For football, the Football Association and the Association of Professional Footballers also recently announced a historic agreement. There will no longer be a minimum period of employment to qualify for the maternity policy, under which players in the top two tiers of women’s football in England going on maternity leave will receive 100 per cent of their weekly wages, including any other compensation and benefits. , during the first 14 weeks of maternity leave.

The RFU policy is particularly beneficial given that World Rugby guidelines state that pregnant women should not play or train, and the policy provides players with the opportunity to take on alternative roles during their pregnancy. The first point of the new policy is the one that really stands out. Some of the main insecurities as a professional sportsperson are the uncertainties created by continuous contract negotiations, fixed-term contracts (generally contracts are much shorter in women’s football than in men’s football) and lack of career longevity. These factors may well deter women from having children until the end of their sporting career for fear that it will affect contract negotiations. The job security created by the new policy will reduce some of the barriers that prevent women from starting a family during their sporting career. The added job security brought by the policy also helps to create a more inclusive environment of family life and normalizes parenthood in sport.

Increase salary

According to the latest published accounts, Arsenal Women Football Club have increased player salaries by almost 30%. Although this is a big step forward for women’s football, the problem remains the huge salary difference compared to men’s football. It is known that the salaries that male footballers earn reflect the income that the sport generates through sponsorships, television offers, as well as tickets sold to attend matches. Since a new broadcast deal was struck between the Women’s Super League, the BBC and Sky, Arsenal’s women’s team have seen a 62% increase in revenue. After playing four games at the Emirates Stadium last season, matchday revenue has also increased.

It is undeniable that in all industries, and not just the sports industry, income is usually the determining factor in determining employee salaries. These statistics show that investing in broadcasting women’s sport and having women’s sport played in larger venues can lead to significant increases in profitability, which in turn can be used to increase player salaries. . In fact, after England won the Euros, Arsenal played games this season that sold over 50,000 tickets, compared to just over 10,000 tickets last season. With the growing interest in women’s sport, there are great opportunities that are being taken up by employers, which in turn provides much better compensation for female players.

Go forward

Elite athletes often have the mentality of always moving forward and always improving. Employers should adopt the same mentality, not only to advance equality, but also to follow the upward trajectory of women’s sport, which can see financial rewards. As the case studies show, investing in the visibility of women’s sport can prove beneficial not only for employees, but also for employers’ revenues. It’s a win-win situation that can only continue to develop the sports landscape and keep talented sportswomen in their positions.

Improved maternity policies also help encourage talented sportswomen to stay in their role or return to their role after pregnancy. This not only benefits employees, but also gives a very positive public image to employers who genuinely show their support for the normalization of family life in sport.

Employers could also go beyond policies by offering greater flexibility and opportunities for sportswomen to balance their family life with their work, such as help with childcare, or flexibility with certain training session schedules. training and recovery when possible.

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