Tomorrow, the ECB and several county chairs are going before the Digital, Culture, Media And Sport Parliamentary committee to answer questions regarding racism within English cricket and their responses to it (or the lack thereof). This is certainly an important issue which should be questioned and addressed, but it is far from the only problem that the sport has regarding diversity and equality. The treatment of women cricketers by the ECB and the counties has been (and continues to be) shameful.
This genuinely angers me, and never more so than when the ECB posts press releases, promotional videos and friendly articles by useful idiots in the press declaring how committed they are to gender equality. It is absolute bullshit. I’ve posted about this before, after the ECB posted a series of videos on Twitter proclaiming their support for the International Women’s Day 2020 campaign ‘Each For Equal’. It’s fair to say that I was not impressed.
In the first season of The Hundred, the total player wage bill for the women’s competition was £1.3m compared to £6.7m for the men. This meant that the average man was paid £45,000 more than the average woman. The ECB announced pay rises for everyone in this year’s competition, which was presented by some useful idiots in the press as being a “108%” (or “more than doubled”) increase for the women compared to ‘just’ 25% for the men. A real blow for equality in sport. This was technically accurate, but hardly tells the full story. With the total wage bills being £8.3m and £2.3m in 2022, the average pay gap for women cricketers has actually increased by £5,000 to £50,000.
The first question this scenario begs to be asked is whether it is legal. If you had a company with a 50-50 gender split and every single woman was paid £50,000 less than a man in the same job, you could expect to spend most of your time in lawyers’ offices and employment tribunals.
We understand in sport that men’s and women’s sports are typically separate, with their own discrete economic and competition structures and therefore it is not unfair for Cristiano Ronaldo to be paid more than Ella Toone, for example. However, it is not immediately apparent that this would apply to The Hundred. Almost every source of income is pooled together from both competitions, with no distinction for what proportion can (or should) be attributed to the men or women. The TV deals all include both men’s and women’s games. Every ticket sold (barring the season openers) is for both a men’s and women’s game. The same sponsorship deals cover both competitions. At the same time, it would seem like women do the same amount of work as the men in The Hundred, playing the same number of games and having apparently equal media and sponsorship commitments. It would be very interesting to hear what someone with more knowledge than me regarding employment law had to say on the issue.
Even if total pay equity is not legally required, the current balance is significantly out of proportion to the value they bring to the competition and the compensation they therefore deserve. With wage budgets of £8m and £2m, the women will on average be paid 25% as much as the men this season. According to the ECB’s own figures, the women’s Hundred had 52.4% of the attendance and (for the final) 58.3% of the TV viewers compared to the men’s games. It would seem to logically follow that the women therefore deserve to be paid at least 50% of what the men receive, or double what they are currently due in 2022.
To be clear: The TV audiences are the key statistic regarding how much income can be attributed to the women’s competition. The Sky and BBC TV deals alone account for £36.5m, roughly 70% of The Hundred’s revenue. If women’s cricket is attracting 52.4% of the men’s audience (and it is) then it follows that they are earning 34.4% (0.524/1.524) of those TV deals, or £12.5m. This would mean that the women’s competition is already making a profit, and would continue to do so even if their total wage budget was increased to £8m per year.
At the same time, the men’s competition has significantly greater costs. As well as having higher salaries for the players, it also requires an annual payment to the counties of £24.7m to compensate them for losing contracted men’s players during the season as well as lost income from hosting fewer, lower status men’s games in the middle of summer. This means that the men’s competition earns £24m in UK TV revenue (65.6% of £36.5m) but costs at least £32.7m. Even if you attribute 100% of ticket revenue (around £6.5m) to the men’s Hundred, it would still be making a significant loss. In short: The women’s Hundred appears to be subsidising the men’s.
However, these attendance and viewing figures don’t tell the whole story. The scheduling of The Hundred in the first year was entirely focussed on the men’s competition. Every single men’s game in 2021 was in a primetime television/attendance slot, by which I mean outside of work hours and avoiding clashes with the men’s Test series against India. By contrast, every weekday women’s game (bar the season opener) started at 3pm or 3.30pm and there were also ten women’s games scheduled to take place at the same time as the Tests.
That the women attracted such a large audience in spite of these handicaps placed on them by the ECB is incredible and, I would argue, suggests that they are significantly undervalued. After all, if the roles were reversed and every women’s game was given this kind of priority, would the men’s attendances and TV audiences still be higher? There is a reason why almost no sports play their games during work hours, if they can avoid it.
It bears saying that achieving equal pay in The Hundred would be much easier with the support of the PCA. The women players are all members, and you might expect that their union would be supporting them gaining more (and, I would argue, fairer) pay. However, the most obvious way for the ECB to implement this would having a £5m wage budget for each competition, which would represent a 37.5% pay cut for men. As I have previously posted, the PCA always seems to prioritise the interests of their male members over everyone else.
Even so, to pay women cricketers so little would seem to be too hypocritical even for the ECB to stomach. After all, they post lovely videos on all of their social media accounts proclaiming their support for International Women’s Day every single year. Given that one of the key themes running through every single International Women’s Day campaign is the fight against pay disparity, and the ECB actively promotes these campaigns, supporting equal pay in their new competition would seem like a no-brainer.
Which should tell you exactly how much I rate the ‘brains’ at the ECB.
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