The Australian women's cricket team are already the highest paid female sportspersons in the country. © Getty Images

The Australian women’s cricket team are already the highest paid female sportspersons in the country. © Getty Images

In a huge win for gender equality and closing the pay gap, Cricket Australia announced on Tuesday (March 21) a 125% increase in the average pay for their international women cricketers.

This is part of CA’s efforts to introduce gender equity in the Memorandum of Understanding, which sees women being included in the financial model for the first time.

The offer of a new five-year MoU and its proposed financial model sees female cricketers receiving an immediate average pay increase from AUS$ 79,000 (approximately Rs 39.84 lakh) to AUS$ 179,000 (Rs 90.28 lakh). It would come into effect from July 1, 2017, smack in the middle of the Women’s World Cup, of which Australia are the defending champions.

According to a CA press release, the board expects to see its women earning an average of AUS$ 210,000 (Rs 1.06 crore) by the 2021-22 season.

To put this in context, as per the central contracts introduced by the BCCI for the 2015-16 season, four India Women cricketers had Grade A contracts worth Rs 15 lakh and seven Grade B contracts of Rs 10 lakh. However, contracts for the 2016-17 season haven’t been announced.

CA is also proposing to introduce, for the first time, prize money for the WNCL of AUS$ 258,000 and for the WBBL of $309,000.

The changes will come into effect after further discussions with the Australian Cricketers’ Association.

During the brouhaha over outdated ‘pregnancy clauses’ that were leaked to the Australian media in December 2016, which caused outrage among women in Australia and other countries, Pat Howard, CA general manager of team performance, had admitted the gender pay gap needed to be corrected. While the international male cricketers see their yearly retainer increase to AUS$ 816,000 (Rs 4.12 crore) by 2021-22, domestic cricketers will be receiving equal minimum and average hourly pay, according to James Sutherland, the CA CEO.

“Under this offer, we will achieve gender equity by ensuring that the minimum and average hourly pay will be the same for state men and women in 2017-18. In addition, match fees for the WNCL and the Matador Cup will be exactly the same: a one-day game for a state cricketer is worth the same to both men and women.

“Cricket has led the charge on providing a real sporting career path for women, and this offer locks in all that hard work of the past few years. It is truly an historic development which allows us to say with confidence that cricket is a sport for all Australians.”

The BCCI are taking small but sure steps towards injecting more professionalism in the women's game in India with equality in daily allowances and airline travel. © ICC

The BCCI are taking small but sure steps towards injecting more professionalism in the women’s game in India with equality in daily allowances and airline travel. © ICC

Besides the gender pay gap, the main issue the Australian Cricketers’ Association held against its board during the negotiations was the disparity between the ‘total cricket revenue’, CA’s overall revenue pool, and the ‘Australian cricket revenue’, the revenue distributed among the players. In a submission by the ACA in December 2016, the players indicated that this disparity needed to be corrected and then only could negotiations proceed further. In the offer submitted to the ACA by CA, while the share for male international players remains the same as per the previous MoU, up to AUS$ 16 million over five years (up to Rs 80 crore), the women will receive a share of the surplus as well for the first time ever, up to AUS$ 4m for the same duration (up to Rs 20 crore).

With CA projecting a guaranteed increase in income (including match fees, performance bonuses and BBL payments) for its men from AUS$ 1.16m (Rs 5.8 crore) in 2016-17 to AUS$ 1.45m (Rs 7.3 crore) by 2021-22, Sutherland said their focus was in determining this specific amount in their proposal rather than anything else.

“We understand that the ACA prefers the status quo, but CA believes that the model devised in the 1990s, which is based on a fixed percentage of revenue, has served its intended purpose – to make Australia’s cricketers some of the best paid sportspeople in the country.

“It was a means to an end, not something that has to hold us back from providing players with financial certainty, a fair deal for all players including women, and the flexibility to invest in the grassroots of the game.

“We are now looking forward to sitting down with the ACA to work through the details and we are confident we will be able to announce a completed agreement before June 30.”

With its latest proposal, CA remains at the forefront of ensuring the country’s female cricketers are the best remunerated in the world, following recent efforts in increasing the player payments pool, promising AUS$ 6m investment over four years in grassroots cricket, and with domestic powerhouse NSW Breakers becoming the first fully professional domestic team in women’s cricket.

Other boards have struggled to keep up, even as they have brought in changes to better compensate their players. The BCCI last year brought equity in the daily allowance of the women’s and men’s teams: the daily allowance for both will be US$ 125 (Rs 8173) for international tours and US$ 100 (Rs 6538) for home series. An Indian Express article also hinted at an upgrade for women’s teams when travelling from economy to business class. The CoA were planning on getting this proposal approved during their meeting on Friday (March 17).

In October last year, West Indies announced an increase in annual retainer fees, as well as sponsorship payments, match fees and captains’ allowances. The estimated increase was to cost the WICB just under US$ 600,000 for the year.