Earlier this week, Federal Sports Minister Sussan Ley and Australian Sports Commission (ASC) chairman John Wylie announced an expectation that major sporting organisations provide gender neutral travel policies for their athletes to continue to receive government funding.
Ann Odong

The Women's Game
5 Feb 2016 - 5:07 PM  UPDATED 5 Feb 2016 - 5:26 PM

In essence, sporting bodies are to provide the same travel standards for their male and female athletes.

In a letter to 30 ASC top funded sporting bodies, including Football Federation Australia, the ASC and the Federal Government outlined their expectations:

“In 2016, we can think of no defensible reason why male and female athletes should travel in different classes or stay in different standard accommodation when attending major international sporting events.”

“The ASC is now proposing to make gender-neutral travel policies for senior major championships a condition of investment by the ASC in a sport.”

While the move is attributed to the Opals travel controversy in 2012, it is one that hits close to home for football.

The standard of travel for the Matildas and the Socceroos were one of the bargaining points in last year’s at times acrimonious Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

“It is simply unacceptable that the country’s elite female athletes have consistently been denied the same travel conditions as our male athletes when competing for their nation,” said PFA Player Relations Executive Kathryn Gill.

“These measures are long overdue and are an important step forward in addressing the issue of gender equality, which to date has not been tackled in a meaningful way by most sports.”

“The Matildas, through the PFA, have long campaigned for improved workplace conditions. The introduction of these measures will ensure that players are provided with a high performance workplace that is fundamental for even greater success on the world stage.”

FFA Response

A day after the letter was received, FFA CEO David Gallop quickly announced that the Matildas would be afforded the same standards of travel (business class flights) and accommodation as the Socceroos at their next World Cup appearance, France 2019.

While the FFA confirmed its implementation of the ASC letter for the World Cup, it ruled out providing the same standard for other major tournaments including the 2018 Women’s Asian Cup and potentially this year’s 2016 Rio Olympics.

As always, resourcing was the rationale behind the decision.

“FFA understands and agrees with the objective of the ASC’s [Australian Sports Commission] calls for a gender neutral travel policy for senior world championship events,” Gallop told Sydney Morning Herald.

“The global nature of our game means that the Matildas travel very regularly throughout the world for international friendlies as well as major senior championships like the FIFA World Cup.”

In comparison, the Matildas travel standards would be close to the World Champions the USA.

In recently released court documents following US Soccer Federation’s action against the USWNT Player Association, the current Memorandum of Understanding states:

“US Soccer will provide premium economy / economy plus seats when available…and will provide direct flights where available. 

…Travel for the Olympics will be business class or charter, unless, by its own rules applied to all national teams, the USOC prohibits it.  Travel for the World Cup/Qualifiers that exceed 3 hours will be business class or charter.

In no event will a US Soccer staff member (other than the Head Coach) receive a more premium seat than a Player on the same flight.”