PAY packages for women playing in the inaugural AFL Women’s season are still under debate just a few months from the beginning of the season.
Currently, each player will receive $5000 for the eight week season, in a package that does not include private health insurance or football boots.
Online activists, most notably the group Boots Off, criticises the AFL for providing what they see as unfair contracts. The campaign encourages people to take a photo of their bare feet, in solidarity with players.
The movement has spread considerably since beginning on AFL womens draft day.
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Greens MP Ellen Sandell, La Trobe University and comedian Tom Ballard have all lent their voices in support of the campaign.
Kat Brown, an administrator behind the Facebook page for #bootsoff, is excited about the creation of the league.
“I think it’s (the creation of the women’s league) a really important moment for gender equality in sports,” said Ms Brown.
However, this is not without some misgivings.
“The launch of the AFL Women’s league is brilliant, but the way they’re doing it (the pay scale) is insulting to the players, and insulting to women more broadly,” said Ms Brown.
Pepa Randall, a Melbourne Demons player starting in the women’s league next year, concurs.
“(the) AFL should pave the way for all other sporting codes to provide females with a decent (not identical to the men) but at least liveable wage,” said Ms Randall.
However, there has also been opposition to the ideas and arguments of #bootsoff. “the AFL is expecting us to promote their business by playing at an elite level and providing a spectacle for the audience. However if we cannot train as professionals at an elite level because we are also working at the same time, we will not reach (our) full potential as athletes,”
Simon Lethlean, the manager of game and market development for the AFL, has stated that a lack of TV revenue from the women’s game was the main reason contracts were small, as reported by Hack.
Geelong player Joel Selwood, as reported by The Age, believes that women’s pay ‘has to start somewhere’ and that ‘it was not so long ago that our guys were part time footballers as athletes’.
Mr Lethlean, Mr Selwood and AFL CEO Gillion McLachlan did not respond to approaches for comment for this story.
AFL Women’s Melbourne player Katherine Smith believes that the current AFL pay packet is justified.
Ms Smith said that since the league was new, the AFL was trying to work out a system that works best for the players. She said that the ANZ Championship netball had recently inflated contracts to their players in response to the AFL, and on the whole the AFL was ‘doing some really positive things.’
“I think in the next four or five years it will be a full time job, we’ll have full salaries and be able to live off (our pay from the AFL)…it’s going to be a gradual process,” said Ms Smith.
The AFL women’s season begins in February of next year.