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Cricket: White Ferns set to cash in

The potential for our top women’s cricketers to earn more is rising fast, writes Andrew Alderson.
Rachel Priest is playing in the Women's Big Bash League. Photo / Getty Images
Rachel Priest is playing in the Women's Big Bash League. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand's top women cricketers are on the cusp of a financial revolution which could see them become fulltime professionals.

Australia's best could be on contract and sponsorship deals which push their cricket incomes beyond $100,000 by the start of next summer, after the Sydney Morning Herald revealed negotiations between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association last month.

New Zealand have seven players - Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Amy Satterthwaite, Sara McGlashan, Rachel Priest, Hayley Jensen and Morna Nielsen - contracted to the women's Big Bash League. Contracts are understood to be worth between A$3000 ($3200) and A$10,000 ($10,650).

Australia's centrally-contracted women's players are paid retainers between A$50,134 ($53,365) and A$78,034 ($83,064) out of a A$2.26 million ($2.4 million) pool.

Their remuneration looks set for a boost if Australia's Channel 10 television viewing figures keep exceeding expectations.

An average of 372,000 viewers watched the Melbourne derby between the women's Renegades and Stars last week, peaking at 439,000. The coverage prompted network executives to add the semifinals and two of the last three games to their viewing schedule.

It's another coup in a week of cricketing enlightenment, after Chris Gayle's chastisement for using a pick-up line on Australian television reporter Mel McLaughlin during a live interview, an act he later claimed was a "joke".

Top players also face a work opportunity in England this year with the launch of the Super League, a competition comprising six franchises without any county affiliation.

Add 10 New Zealand Cricket women's contracts worth $10,000 - plus match fees - and a significant income stream takes shape.

White Ferns head coach Haidee Tiffen. Photo / Photosport
White Ferns head coach Haidee Tiffen. Photo / Photosport

New Zealand coach and former captain Haidee Tif-fen welcomes the initiatives, which she says will develop better cricketers, particularly with three one-day internationals and three Twenty20s planned against Australia next month.

"It's great they're being recognised as athletes and remunerated for the value they're bringing to Cricket Australia and women's sport in general.

It's an exciting time to be involved in women's cricket.

"The TV ratings show there's a need to be inspired by sportswomen expressing themselves. The [New Zealand] girls are loving it, and true growth in the game only comes from experiential learning.

"A short-term solution is that this gives the top White Ferns more money. I want that for our players, but we need to look at it holistically. What are the pathways for our young girls to engage? Why do women choose to play and watch, or not? If we can start understanding our culture around cricket, we can serve more people."

Tiffen concurred with former Black Caps captain Daniel Vettori's idea to push for the recruitment of a New Zealand franchise into the Big Bash.

"I'm encouraging our players to make the most of the experience and bring that expertise home," she said. "Our top players will be playing more cricket than they ever have in a summer."

NZC's head of cricket Lindsay Crocker acknowledged the disparity between men's and women's centralised contract retainers - the top men earn retainers in the region of $200,000 - but said they could only afford to base payments on the perceived commercial worth of women.

"England can afford to pay their players outside that commercial worth because they've got the wherewithal to do so," Crocker said.

"Australia have found value through the women's Big Bash. Piggybacking off them is the initial step to providing a better income. We build the women's schedule around that as a result.

"The $10,000 is probably more like a training allowance than a salary but they've got the freedom to play outside our system in as many leagues as they like.

"Like the men's contracts, we can't match the resources of Australia or England with our smaller funding base."

Crocker says a Women In Cricket project undertaken by NZC this year will endeavour to better understand the relationship of women with the game through players, coaches, fans, volunteers and administrators.

"Hopefully we get a better gauge as to how we develop their professionalism to provide a sustainable career path.

"The women's Big Bash has shown women's cricket has an appeal, if packaged right.

"They've piggybacked off the men's brand rather than creating something separate, which has been contrary to our thinking."

Tiffen says Gayle's gaffe has had a positive impact, in an unconventional way.

"It took an unfortunate situation like this to raise awareness and educate people that it's not OK. It's about men looking at themselves and asking, 'What the hell would I do?' in that situation.

"There's something bubbling away which recognises the value of women cricketers as athletes, not women cricketers compared to male cricketers.

"It can help fathers see their daughters and wives in a different light, and is about creating equality and not tolerating discrimination," said Tiffen.

- Herald on Sunday

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