Netball’s Childcare is a Game Changer for Women’s Sports

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Soccer, basketball, rugby league…did you see that? Netball just showed you how it’s done.

The landmark deal will see netballers become the highest paid athletes in the country but it’s just not the money that should have other sports scrambling through their collective bargaining agreements or rushing to create a collective bargaining agreement (some still don’t have them) but something else instead.

Something many women in all workplaces wish they had.

Childcare.

Netball has expanded its parental policy to provide players with young children unprecedented support

In the deal, netball has expanded its parental policy to provide players with young children unprecedented support. For players with infants (aged 12 months or younger) that means their children will be allowed to travel with the team and the club will even pay for a carer to travel to assist them. For players with children older than 12 months, further support will be determined by clubs on an individual basis.

In addition to this, the code is also safeguarding a player’s contract should they fall pregnant. If that happens, the player is now guaranteed to be paid for the term of their contract or a two year period (whichever comes first). Parental Leave to have a child is a legal right in Australia under the Paid Parental Leave Act, but ensuring a two-year payment in the event of pregancy goes over and beyond what the law actually requires Netball Australia to do. It goes over and beyond what modern day workplaces do.

This deal sets a new benchmark for professional female athletes. Careers don’t have to end when they become a mum, a pathway to continue their sporting endeavours has now been forged.

Netball has come a long way since the days of Trudy Gardner. An elite player and captain of the Adelaide Ravens in the old Commonwealth Bank Trophy, Trudy was forced quit the sport when the governing body banned pregnant women from playing in the competition back in 2001. Losing match payments, sponsorship and humiliation, Trudy took them to the Federal Court and won her discrimination case.

Netball may have moved on, but other sports haven’t.

A quick search through the archives of Sportette and you’ll find some interesting stories. Like that of Australian Basketballer Abby Bishop, who in 2014 was forced to quit the Australian Basketball Team, the Opals and her World Championship dream when they brought in a new draconian parenting policy.

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Abby Bishop was forced to quit the Opals as a result of Basketball Australia’s controversial parenting policy.

Abby’s world changed when she became the sole carer of her sister’s baby, Zala when she was just two days old. Overnight Abby went from basketball star to single mum. This should have been a feel good story for BA, a chance for positive media, but instead they quickly drafted a parenting policy that wouldn’t even allow Abby, Zala and a carer (at Abby’s expense) to stay in the same accommodation as herself and the team.

Abby’s situation attracted world wide media and it didn’t look good for BA. Abby’s subsequent contracts with Seattle in America’s WNBA and back home with the Canberra Capitals (where she’s captain) included childcare, but this was off the club’s own initiative to support its star player. It should be standard policy across all clubs and organisations.

Sportette also brought you the story of former Matildas captain Melissa Barbieri who, despite leading her country to international success (including winning the AFC Asian Cup), found herself without a club after giving birth to her first child. This was a football veteran, an Olympian with 84 caps for her country…this was also 2013.

Melissa sold all her Matildas memorabilia to provide the funds needed to support herself and her family while still playing.

Melissa was determined to continue playing and emailed W-League clubs telling them she wouldn’t need money just a chance to keep playing. Adelaide eventually signed her. Living in Melbourne and with her daughter only months old, Melissa sold all her Matildas memorabilia to provide the funds needed to support herself and her family while still playing. Melissa raised $8000, of which she took $5000 and gave the rest to her teammates. That season she went on to be awarded the W-League Goalkeeper of the Year and was later selected for Australia to play in her fourth World Cup.

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Former Matildas captain Melissa Barbieri who struggled to find a club after giving birth to daughter Holly.

 

What a fight she had to have to be both Mother and Matilda.

A fight no sportswoman should have had to have.

A fight no netballer will ever have now.

But let’s talk about the pay.

Netball’s salary cap has increased to $675,000 for 10 contracted players…meaning the average wage has shot from $40,000 to $67,500 and the minimum wage has more than doubled from $13,250 to $27,375. There’s also 100% income protection for up to two years in the case of injury as well as pregnancy.

To give you a comparison, clubs in the W-League have a salary cap of $150,000 shared across 20 contracted players, that’s an average wage of $7,500 and there’s no minimum wage. The new AFL’s new league has a minimum wage of $5000 with the eight marquee players receiving the highest wage of $25,000. Cricketers who play in the WBBL and domestic one day competitions can earn upwards of $18,000, (payments for the national team Southern Stars can see them also earning between $40 – $65K).

Netball’s policy sets a whole new benchmark for women’s sports which other sports should take note of.

And the best thing about this new deal…it’s just the beginning.

 

Sam Squiers is a Channel 9 Sports Presenter and the founder of Sportette.

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