Simon Borchardt

Equal pay an unrealistic expectation for Bok Women

The Springbok Women can't expect to be paid the same as their male counterparts.

In an interview with last week, Bok Women’s captain Babalwa Latsha praised the Brazilian Football Confederation for deciding to pay its women's team the same as the men's team.

'It's time the rest of the world, across women's sport, followed suit,' said Latsha. 'That includes women’s rugby in South Africa and around the world.

‘I’m calling on the Springbok men to come on board and say "the Springbok Women are Springboks, just like the men,"' the 26-year-old added. ‘Let us move towards gender inclusivity, gender equity and gender parity.’

My personal view on this issue is simple: When the Bok Women generate the same revenue for SA Rugby as the Bok men, they should be paid the same as the men. If the Bok Women ever generated more revenue than the men, they should be paid more than them.

And revenue is driven by demand.

At the moment, the Bok men generate millions of rands for SA Rugby annually – through TV broadcast rights, ticket sales and merchandise sales – while it actually costs SA Rugby money to have a women’s team.

The NBA and WNBA provide a good example of players’ salaries reflecting the revenue they help generate.

The Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry earned $40-million in 2019, more than all the players in the women’s basketball tournament combined ($12.5-million). But that’s understandable when you consider that NBA teams this year generated $8.8-billion compared to around $70-million by the WNBA.

Instead of pushing for equal pay, which is unrealistic, the Bok Women should focus on helping to grow women’s rugby in this country – to a point where it can become at least semi-professional – by winning matches.

The establishment of a semi-professional domestic women’s provincial/franchise competition – sponsored by a corporate and broadcast by SuperSport – would be a big step in the right direction.

However, for women’s rugby in South Africa to really take off, the Bok Women need to start competing with – and beating – the likes of New Zealand, England and Canada (the top three ranked women’s teams).

At the 2014 World Cup, the Bok Women lost all three of their pool matches and were hammered 55-3 by France.

A lot of progress has been made since then, and there’s every reason to believe the Bok Women (currently ranked 13th in the world) will be far more competitive at next year’s global showpiece in New Zealand.

If they are, SA Rugby will be better placed to approach sponsors and broadcasters to invest in women’s rugby, while more fans would be willing to pay to watch them play.

Those revenue streams would be used to develop women’s rugby in South Africa and, of course, pay the players more.

– Borchardt is the editorial director of Follow him on Twitter.