Capital Football has come under fire from the local football community after announcing they will pay referees more money to officiate men’s matches compared to women’s matches next season.
Capital Football released their referee match fees for the 2019 winter season on Monday (26 November). Central referees will be paid an extra $42 to officiate an NPL first-grade match compared to a WNPL first-grade match.
According to a graph obtained by Region Media, referees and their assistants will be offered more money to officiate men’s matches in all NPL grades, men’s State League competitions and Masters competitions compared to the corresponding women’s competitions.
Women’s rights advocate Leisha Lister sits on the Capital Football tribunal and has two teenage daughters who play in the women’s premier league. She raised the issue with Capital Football six weeks ago with no success.
“A parent came up to me at a game one day and knew that I worked in the area of gender equality and told me that Capital Football pays referees more to referee men’s matches,” she said. “I was not aware of this and I thought it must have been a mistake.”
Ms Lister approached the Capital Football board and the head of the referee committee, who told her that referees for men’s matches were paid more because the men’s games are at a higher level of skill and are faster.
“They also said to me that referees are paid less for women’s games all around the world. I told them that is a great opportunity for Capital Football to show that they take gender equality seriously and to stand up and pay referees the same, regardless if they are refereeing men or women,” she said.
“They had a great opportunity to take a really serious step to show that they are serious about equality, and they didn’t.
“We wouldn’t accept it if tennis umpires at the Australian Open were paid less for women’s matches. So why do we accept it here in Canberra?”
Female footballers pay the same registration fees as men, even though Capital Football is not willing to pay the same cost to run the women’s competitions. Ms Lister said she was furious and had offered to help Capital Football address the issue, but had been shut down.
“We want to show our girls that we value them and we think that your level is the same as the boys,” she told Region Media.
“It all comes back to the notion of ‘runs like a girl’, ‘throws like a girl’ and that girls are somehow not as good as the boys. By paying the referee a different rate for a women’s game says ‘you girls are not quite as good as the boys’.”
ACT Sports Minister Yvette Berry said she was not aware of the issue and will ask Capital Football for an explanation.
“My views on the importance of gender equity in sport are well known and the ACT Government continues to encourage all sports to pursue this goal, including through greater representation of women on boards,” Ms Berry said.
“I’ve just been made aware of this issue so I will get in touch with Capital Football to seek an explanation of the thinking behind their decision.”
The staggering pay gap has come in the wake of festering football referee issues in the ACT. Capital Football chief Phil Brown recently revealed 45 per cent of referees aged between 18 and 30 had walked away from the sport in the last two years, citing abuse.
Capital Football has been approached for a comment.