Sports

Men in business class, women in economy: A tale of two T20 World Cups

Madeleine Chapman takes a look at the differences between how the men’s and women’s teams are treated at the T20 World Cups taking place in India.

whiteferns750

EXHIBIT A: PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE THE WHITE FERNS ARE PARTICIPATING IN A WORLD CUP RIGHT NOW

The Twenty20 World Cup is underway in India and, as we all know, the Black Caps are in fine form, eerily similar to their fine form at the World Cup last year.

But did you know the Women’s T20 World Cup is also going on in the very same country at the very same time?

If you didn’t, don’t blame yourself. It seems the ICC and tournament organisers didn’t either. Though the name of the women’s tournament also contains the words ‘T20’, ‘World’, and ‘Cup’, that’s where the similarities end.

Things started looking shady as soon as the teams left for India. ICC had paid for all the men’s teams to fly business class, while the women’s teams flew economy. Australian Cricket chose to cop the cost of the upgrade themselves. New Zealand Cricket decided against it for the White Ferns.

This is the point where most people cry ‘revenue’. No, women’s cricket doesn’t produce the earnings that men’s cricket does. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with economy class. But when you are an international sporting body holding identical tournaments in the same country, double standards become a lot easier to point out and, quite frankly, to avoid. The ICC claims it would have cost too much to upgrade the women to business class. If cost is of such importance, perhaps fly the men’s teams in economy next time and take a bath in all the dollar bills you’ll have lying around.

And if players’ revenue-earning potential is the deciding factor, doesn’t that mean we should pick the most exciting players – the Chris Gayles – and fly them first class? Then take the most boring players – the Mark Richardsons – and fly them economy. After all, revenue generated = perks, and some of those men just haven’t earned the perk of business class.

The travel woes didn’t stop there for the White Ferns. On Friday night (local time) they played Ireland and smashed them, because they’re really good. Tonight they play Australia in Nagpur. It’s sure to be a thrilling match-up between the two best sides in the world. Unfortunately though, it’s not an even contest. The Australian team have been in Nagpur for five days. The White Ferns travelled twelve hours on Saturday to arrive just over a day before the game.

Put it this way: White Ferns played a match on Friday, then essentially travelled from Auckland to Los Angeles to play a vital match tonight. Their captain Suzie Bates called it “a tour of India in one day”. I’ll be waiting patiently for the same logistical cock-up to happen involving a men’s team.

It’s a shame the White Ferns may not be refreshed and ready for the game tonight, because it will be the only one televised in New Zealand, despite there being an entire pop-up channel dedicated to the tournament. Every Black Caps game will be screened.

The disparity in funding and exposure extends to the team’s support crew. While looking for images of the White Ferns in India, I learned from a current player there are no media advisors with the team. Instead of having a staff member dealing with press duties, one of the actual players is tasked with taking photos throughout the tournament and emailing them to the media team back in New Zealand.

whiteferns2750

PHOTOGRAPHIC PROOF WHITE FERNS CAPTAIN SUZIE BATES IS CURRENTLY PLAYING CRICKET IN INDIA

There’s no denying the financial disparities between men’s and women’s cricket. The lowest-earning male domestic player in New Zealand is paid more than any White Fern. But this is an international event involving men and women playing the same sport. Equality should not be argued for – it should just be.

There is a long way to go before male and female cricketers are treated equally by the public. It will take a big shift in attitudes. But the International Cricket Council should be leading the way. It doesn’t mean pandering to women; just treating them the same as men. The Olympics don’t provide better transport or housing for male athletes because they might bring in bigger crowds. That would be preposterous. So why is something similar happening in cricket?

Flying in the same class would be a good place to start. If the White Ferns – who have been on fine form lately – end up being crowned world champions, and the Black Caps – god forbid – don’t, what should the seating arrangements be on the flight home?

The White Ferns play Australia tonight at 11pm on the T20 World Cup pop-up channel. 

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.