Pay gap comes into focus as top NZ players put WBBL above Super Smash

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Wellington Blaze beat Canterbury Magicians by four wickets in the final © Getty Images

Rachel Priest and Sara McGlashan, among others, have come out in support of Peter McGlashan, the radio commentator whose criticism of the lack of pay parity between male and female cricketers in New Zealand has set off a serious conversation on the subject.

Part of the concern also has to do with players of the calibre of Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu and Priest opting to play in the latest edition of the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) instead of the local Super Smash, which ran concurrently with the Australian T20 competition. Many feel New Zealand Cricket (NZC) aren’t making it lucrative enough for the country’s best talent.

Peter, Sara’s brother and a retired wicketkeeper-batsman who played four ODIs and 11 T20Is between 2006 and 2010, was on air during the Super Smash double-header – the men’s game between Auckland Aces and Otago Volts followed by the women’s final between Wellington Blaze and Canterbury Magicians – at Eden Park on January 20. Afterwards, he said on Twitter that he had been paid more than any of the women players involved in the final.

“Yes they got to play on TV and their families get to watch them on TV but you can only promote this equality Super Smash double header, giving the women and the men equal opportunity, if you actually follow it through,” he was quoted as saying by New Zealand Herald. He added on Twitter that while he was paid NZ$350 [approx. USD 240] for his work, and Mitchell McClenaghan, playing for the Aces, was paid NZ$575 [approx. USD 390], Sophie Devine, the star White Ferns allrounder, took back only NZ$55 [approx. USD 40] for turning out for the Blaze, who won off the last ball by four wickets.

Devine and Bates were among the premier New Zealand players at the WBBL © Getty Images

Praising McGlashan for starting the discussion, senior wicketkeeper-batsman Priest said that it was important to have a debate on the matter and look at the way forward for women’s cricket. “We just want to have conversations and discussions and have our views heard. We are literally just talking about women’s cricket. And for NZC, that should be a positive,” she told the Herald.

“Let’s have a discussion, the players just want to be able to move the game forward. That’s all we want at the end of the day.”
The disparity in pay might be one of the reasons for many premier New Zealand players opting to take part in the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia instead of their own domestic tournament, with the two running almost simultaneously.

“I’d love to be playing cricket in New Zealand. I love playing for the Wellington Blaze. But for me, I have to be playing in Australia to make money. That’s my job. It’s something that needs to be looked at,” argued Priest.

Sara, a veteran of two Test, 134 ODI and 76 T20I appearances, also waded into the debate, tweeting out her criticism of the system that forced players to “go offshore” to earn money – she was also a part of the WBBL, playing for Sydney Sixers.

The New Zealand women’s team are hosting the Indians for a series of three ODIs and three T20Is, with the first match taking place in Napier on Thursday.

Speaking in the lead-up to the game, Haidee Tiffen, the New Zealand coach, expressed hope that NZC would take the right view on the matter. “It’s great that the conversation is being had and I know that it’s part of New Zealand Cricket’s wider strategy as well. Look, we’ve seen that the women’s game has grown globally and I’m sure that in time that will happen here as well,” she said.

ALSO READ: India’s women make the pay grade, at last

Speaking to ESPNcricinfo ahead of the first ODI against India, a senior member of the side argued that the rest of the world – New Zealand included – were in danger of falling well behind Australia in the women’s game if they didn’t work on the commercial aspect.

“Australia are doing great things and soon their competition amongst themselves is going to be their greatest competition if the rest of the world doesn’t increase the resources and professionalise the game globally,” she said.

“It begins with invest first and then you can reap the rewards and cricket Australia were willing to invest massively and look at the state of women’s cricket in their county now. Unbelievable! We have to change the archaic view that there is no return for investment in women’s sport, which is still the general view of administration in New Zealand women’s sports.

“But it takes three-to-five years of investment to see the change and the rest of the world is already behind.”

The New Zealand Cricket Players’ Association (NZCPA), meanwhile, has confirmed that the subject will be brought up with NZC in July.
“Some of the questions we will be asking are: What does the future look like? What will be the ongoing investment? And how do they see the domestic women’s game being structured in the future?” Heath Mills, the NZCPA boss, told Radio Sport.

“We think we need to preserve the opportunity for players to play in the two big Twenty20 leagues in England and Australia. It’s quite unique, as we’ve negotiated a position where our best women can go play in that [WBBL] competition and not be available for our domestic competition.

“And that’s because those two competitions, and hopefully one out of India, will mean that those three could end up being the pinnacle of the sport, alongside ICC events. It’s a bit more complex how things may look going forward.”

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ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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