Should ‘less popular’ female athletes get equal pay as ‘more popular’ male athletes?

| Updated: September 29, 2022 16:57:19

Should ‘less popular’ female athletes get equal pay as ‘more popular’ male athletes?

As per the World Bank’s January 2021 data, the percentages of male and female waged workers in Bangladesh are 43.6 per cent and 34 per cent, respectively, while the gap between the numbers of male-female workers is shrinking gradually, it is not quite the same in the wage distribution. 

Almost in all the sectors, there is huge discrimination. But after the historic SAFF triumph by our female players, the inequality in the sports sector came into the spotlight once again.

As per the current salary structure of BCB, a male cricketer earns Tk 2 lacs playing only a T20 international match when his female counterpart gets around Tk 14 thousand. Even the highest-graded female cricketer gets Tk 60 thousand per month, much less than a three-hour male T20 match fee. 

For footballers, it is more dreadful. A top club male footballer’s yearly income is around Tk 50-60 lacs, whereas a top female footballer earns only around Tk 3-4 lacs yearly. The shocking part is that no female players outside cricket and football receive fixed monthly salaries in Bangladesh.

One of the big reasons the authority shows for this inequality is the fund for female players. The board of any sports organisation earns revenue from big sponsors, television broadcast rights, match tickets, and so on. 

The way male cricket adds revenue from all these sectors, less popular female cricket does not do the same. Compared to cricket, the popularity of male football has become dismal, let alone talking female football. So the female wing of these sports cannot earn huge cash like their male counterparts. Eventually, the board cannot pay the players a handsome salary.

Though people flooded social media with different praising posts after the SAFF championship, how many watched their matches live on TV? How many people would go to the stadium to support the girls had the tournament been arranged in Bangladesh? Is public interest the ultimate barrier to balancing the wage? 

Former journalist Moonmoon Sharmin Shams, currently the publisher and editor at Feminist Factor, shared her opinion with the Financial Express on these issues. 

She explained, “If the father of a family feeds his son two eggs a day considering his gender and earning capability but feeds one egg to his daughter, then it becomes a gross unwise judgment. In the same way, both male and female players represent one Bangladesh. In no way can our government let this imbalance continue.”

Talking about the popularity and huge revenue of male sports, she said that the game and players have become products in this capitalistic society. Even cricket in our country was not so good two decades ago. But with good marketing, it earned hype and craze from the masses. Authority promoted the game successfully, and revenue kept on flowing. 

“If authority promotes the players with a good marketing strategy, then it will not take much time to grab people’s attention. Media is so powerful that it can make Nigar Sultana, Rumana Ahmed, or Sabina Khatun a brand like Shakib Al Hasan,” remarked Sharmin.

Wage is such a thing that is given based on the work type and hours whereas bonus is given as the reward for excellent performances. Irrespective of gender, all the players need to wake up early, sweat out in practice sessions and play matches of the same duration or overs. The job scheme is the same for both sides. 

“When both sides are taking an equal pain, their wages should also be equal. It doesn’t matter if they win anything or not. It does not matter if people watch their game or not,” Sharmin opined. 

As viewers, expecting a 140 km/h delivery from a skinny girl would be illogical. But it should be kept in mind that she is giving her all in her 110 km/h delivery. Still, if people do not like to watch their game, that does not make her toil worthless. “Bringing a balanced wage system should not depend on TRP or match ticket earning. It should be the player’s effort,” she added.

She also pointed out several occasions where a huge amount of cash, car, or land was given as a bonus to the male cricketers for winning a bilateral series. But when our female players are winning tournaments, the authority is not that bothered to narrow down the wage discrimination, let alone a big bonus. If the government could afford all those bonus money for males, they surely can afford a balanced salary structure.

The Bangladesh Football Federation secretary Kazi Salahuddin promised the skipper of the SAFF champion team an increment in their salary. It is certain that the new amount will not dramatically change the whole picture. 

In this regard, Sharmin remarked, “If the authority wants the best from our girls, they must treat them as national assets. Proper training facilities, nutrition, and financial solvency must be ensured so players can focus only on their game. After a hard training session, if a girl needs to perform household chores just to save some money, then it will be unjust to expect the best out of her.”

As a solution, boards like BCB or BFF can sum up the total revenue from both male and female wings. Based on that, they can fix a grade-wise monthly basic wage for both male and female players. This portion should be equal, considering the necessity of a national athlete irrespective of gender.

Other fees and figures will be decided according to the tournament value, funds provided by international boards, and other factors of budget and expenditure. This way, the salary might get a little lesser than the present amount for the male players; but equity can be ensured. 

Supporting this idea, Moonmoon added, “There are many ways to make this better. But we can only share our opinion as a citizen. There are people with authority and power who are responsible for finding out a good solution and implementing it in reality.”

Nevertheless, without a good sponsorship, government solely cannot bring a balance or keep it for a long time. “Many big companies are selling their products showing female empowerment and gender equality. This is the time they should come forward extending their support to the girls instead of only making wholesome advertisements,” she suggested.

The New Zealand cricket board has taken a big step ahead in this context. They did not wait for big protests and debates. Rather, they announced equal pay for cricketers irrespective of gender this midyear. They supported the ‘same pay for same work’ theory. 

Now it is time for our concerned authority to evaluate things logically. A bold decision from them can narrow down the discrimination and set an example for other countries.

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