12/10/2015 - 05:55

Sharpshooters seeking business Lynx

12/10/2015 - 05:55

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The new owner of Perth’s professional women’s basketball team has set the agenda for gender equality in professional sports.

Sharpshooters seeking business Lynx
HOT SHOT: Perth Lynx forward Louella Tomlinson, 27, one of the first players recruited to the team this year. Photo: Perth Lynx

The new owner of Perth’s professional women’s basketball team has set the agenda for gender equality in professional sports.

Perth's professional women’s basketball team, the Lynx, has scored a first in sport, becoming Australia’s first female team to be resourced at the same level as its male counterpart.

However, efforts to garner corporate support for the gender equality initiative have been largely ignored by Perth businesses.

When businessman and philanthropist Jack Bendat bought the women’s team in April this year and renamed it the Perth Lynx to align with the big cat brand of men’s team, Perth Wildcats (which he bought 10 years earlier), he was determined to set the agenda for gender equality in professional sports.

Both teams are run under the same management, athletes have equal access to facilities and support staff, and they can receive a free tertiary education from the clubs if they pass their degrees.

Players from both teams are also committed to being good role models, with each athlete providing 300 hours of community service per year, mostly through visits to schools and hospitals.

Perth Wildcats and Perth Lynx managing director Nick Marvin told Business News while the salaries of Lynx players varied based on performance, management had taken the rare step of setting a floor annualy salary, ensuring no player received less than $40,000 pro rata.

While the best players in the Women’s National Basketball League receive between $80,000 and $150,000 per season, there is no award rate for professional athletes, with many spending their own money and taking time off work to train and compete.

The issue of pay for professional female athletes came to the fore recently when the Australian women’s soccer team, the Matildas, took strike action following a breakdown between their union and the Football Federation Australia over a new pay agreement.

The Matildas are ranked in the world’s top 10 but earn an annual base wage of about $21,000, less than half that (on average) for the English women’s team and well below the $US70,000 base salary for their US counterparts.

Mr Marvin said despite Perth Lynx requiring the Bendat family’s philanthropic support to pay athletes and run the business, management believed that, in time, it would become sustainable.

“When the Bendats acquired the Perth Wildcats 10 years ago we went along a similar journey, where the first few years were tough and we lost money and they had to fund everything,” Mr Marvin told Business News.

“We know it’s going to take a similar, but hopefully less amount of time, to make this a viable organisation.”

To attract support, Lynx management has undertaken a mass media advertising campaign and spent six months seeking corporate donations, primarily from female chief executives.

While prominent Perth executives such as Transfield Services chair Diane Smith-Gander, federal politician Alannah MacTiernan, construction and mining executive Sharon Warburton, and CCIWA chief executive Deidre Willmott have agreed to host Lynx corporate functions, Mr Marvin said trying to secure corporate financial contributions had been a frustratingly slow process.

“Right now there’s a lot of talk about gender diversity and gender equality, not just in sport, even in board rooms, but it’s not a reality yet,” he said.

“We’re trying to say to female C-suite executives here’s an opportunity to make a real change.”

 

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