New Zealand sport is not equal or inclusive, and there is little sign of this changing, an academic says.

It was a myth that organised sport was an area of equal opportunities, Auckland University of Technology management lecturer Irene Ryan said yesterday.

"We think participation in sport is what it means to be a Kiwi. It's taken for granted that if you want to participate you can, but that is often not the case."

Dr Ryan, a sportswoman and "avid spectator", said sport seemed particularly resistant to change.

"If we think sport symbolises New Zealand society, then perhaps we need to take a closer look. Sport is another context where inequalities are evident - it's simply far from a level playing field."

Sport in schools was not part of the curriculum, Dr Ryan said.

"It's often extra-curricular, particularly in secondary schools where students are required to pay fees to participate. So immediately we begin to make it challenging for some of our youngest Kiwis to take part."

The costs of playing sports differed, so participation in certain sports reflected a class-based society.

"Saying people need to get involved is one thing, but you can pick any sport and assess what individuals can afford to be involved in that sport."

Dr Ryan said amateur sport was the big loser.

"Many sports were fighting over cash crumbs to survive."

The dominance of a few male professional sports meant it was often forgotten that New Zealand had a large amateur elite sports sector.

Little was heard of New Zealand's amateur elite sports people and the family and community support required to ensure they could meet the heightened expectations of all involved in the elite sports game.

A danger was that the sports culture extended into Kiwi organisations, she said.

"We should continue to ask who's being excluded and why? What happens in sport reflects wider societal issues."

- NZPA