Evolution of women's cricket continues

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Suzie Bates celebrates with her White Ferns teammates. Photo / Photosport

By Andrew Alderson

The women's cricket revolution continued on its Long March this week.

The White Ferns will travel business-class to the World Cup in England, courtesy of the International Cricket Council, a further boost to the career paths women are now forging in the game.

Every World Cup match will be broadcast - either on television or live-streamed - for the first time, including the use of the Decision Review System.

Prize money has also risen from $290,000 to $2.9 million. By comparison, the men's Champions Trophy kitty totals $6.5 million.

Slowly but surely, the times they are a-changin'.

Few would deny fan interest in the men's game is the main driver of New Zealand Cricket revenue but, until recently, the lack of investment in women meant inequity was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nothing accrues nothing. If women had few chances to prove themselves, developing any form of parity would be limited.

The ICC has also changed its mindset, as they seek to grow the game.

Almost 18 million views of women's World Cup qualifier highlights helped, as has increased interest in other global female sports like golf, tennis, basketball and football.

A significant income stream is taking shape for women's cricketers.

August's three-year memorandum of understanding between NZC and the New Zealand Cricket Players' Association saw 15 women awarded annual contracts ranging from $20,000 to $34,000 with match fees - $400 for ODIs and $300 for T20Is - and an annual superannuation payment of $2500.

Top players are contracted to the flourishing Australian and English T20 leagues, and also receive endorsement deals.

Former Women's World Cup winner Catherine Campbell and White Ferns coach coach Haidee Tiffen during a press conference. Photo / Photosport
Former Women's World Cup winner Catherine Campbell and White Ferns coach coach Haidee Tiffen during a press conference. Photo / Photosport

Remuneration could be further boosted in coming years if Australia's Channel 10 television viewing figures for the women's Big Bash League keep exceeding expectations.

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

This week's airfare revelation reinforced the policy embarked on by NZC since November when they released "Women and Cricket, Cricket and Women", an independent review examining how the sport relates to women.

Continued below.

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Many findings were grim. The decline was traced back to the New Zealand Women's Cricket Council amalgamating with their men's counterpart in 1992, something touted as a coup at the time.

"Women's cricket has been sidelined. This is wrong, and we have a responsibility to put things right," said NZC chief executive David White when the report was released. Board member Liz Dawson led the project's steering committee and described the outcomes as "brutal and bleak".

They included:

10 per cent of Kiwi cricketers who play all traditional and modified participation experiences are female.

• 90 per cent of female cricketers are under the age of 12, compared to 65 per cent of males.

• 58 per cent of clubs have no women's participation options.

• 54 per cent of the 2015-16 Super Smash audience was women.

Cricket did not rank strongly for female sports participation by age:

• 5-10 year-olds, 16th

• 11-14 year-olds, 21st

• 15-18 year-olds, 34th

As part of its mea culpa, NZC committed to boosting the role of women in the game, regardless of whether that encroached on other developmental budgets, like men's A tours.

The conversation shifted from "what to do about women?" to "what's the cost of not including female talent and input at all levels if the sport wants to remain competitive?"

That includes being as interested in women as fans as much as players. Almost 40 per cent of NZC's fans are females and overall revenue is driven by fan engagement through ticket sales, merchandise purchases and broadcast subscriptions.

Photo / Photosport
Photo / Photosport

A catalyst could advance women's cricket parity further in July: The Haidee Tiffen-coached New Zealand side has every chance of emulating the country's inaugural World Cup victory of 2000.

Few White Ferns squads have been as strong. Proven talents like Suzie Bates, Amy Satterthwaite, Sophie Devine and Rachel Priest will play alongside one of the best prospects this country has produced, 16-year-old leg-spinner Amelia Kerr.

NZC, and its fanbase, are poised to take advantage.

THE FACTS

• The White Ferns will travel business-class to the World Cup for the first time.

• Every tournament match will be broadcast, either on television or live-streamed, for the first time.

• World Cup prize money has risen from $290,000 to $2.9 million.

• 15 annual contracts are awarded to New Zealand women ranging from $20,000 to $34,000 with match fees - $400 for ODIs and $300 for T20Is - as well as an annual superannuation payment of $2500.

• Players can also earn income from endorsements and T20 leagues in Australia and England.

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