Sporting associations in Victoria will lose funding unless 40% of their board positions are filled by women, in a proposal being considered by the state government.
If adopted, the proposal could have implications for government support for major sporting events if associations like Football Federation Australia, which oversees both A-League and Socceroos matches, do not appoint additional female directors.
The mandated minimum quota is one of nine recommendations made in a report by the inquiry into women and girls in sport, commissioned by the government and led by the Richmond Football Club president, Peggy O’Neal.
The report, which also recommended giving greater prominence to women’s sport in the media and co-opting the male champions of change program for grassroots and semi-elite sporting organisations, said it was “inequitable and wasteful” not to take advantage of the female talent pool when recruiting for senior executives in sporting organisations.
It recommended all sporting associations who receive Victorian government funding be given three years to comply.
“The overwhelming message from the consultations was that there are many women and girls with the talent and desire to contribute to the sport and active recreation sector, but the opportunities to participate and lead were either elusive or not readily evident,” it said.
The acting sport minister, Philip Dalidakis, said the government was considering the recommendations.
“There are lots of conversations that need to occur with stakeholders prior to implementing any of these,” he said.
Dalidakis said government wanted to “lead by example” in gender parity. In May the premier, Daniel Andrews, announced women would make up at least 50% of all future paid board and court appointments.
“We don’t want women to be an afterthought in our sporting clubs,” Dalidakis said.
The sex discrimination commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, has also been pushing for greater female representation in the sport industry, saying in May that gender parity in sport was more important than gender parity in business for the purpose of cultural change.
“When a sport moves to greater gender equality and inclusion I think the possibility for change is greater,” Broderick said. “If sport becomes more inclusive, and it’s used as a vehicle to build inclusion for men and women, then it has the potential to create change in the nation.”
Since 2013 the Australian Sports Commission’s mandatory governance principles for national sporting organisations have required 40% representation of women on boards, but the target has not been met.
The commission itself has just 33% representation, with women occupying three of its nine chairs.
The AFL has just two female commissioners: Major general Simone Wilkie, who was appointed in 2015 to replace outgoing board member Linda Dessau after the former federal court judge was appointed Victoria’s first female governor; and Sam Mostyn, who in 2005 was the first woman appointed to the role.
None of the six directors for the Victorian Country Football League are women. Tennis Victoria reached the 40% quota in November.
Of the eight Victorian-based AFL teams, only the Western Bulldogs, followed by Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, would meet the quota with its current board. Four of its nine directors are women. It’s also the club that receives the most state funding – the Victorian government is now a major sponsor of the financially ailing club and has promised $31.5m to build a new home ground in Ballarat.
All other clubs would have to change their board if they wanted to bid for government money.
Even Richmond, the first club to appoint a female president in O’Neal and is conducting its own gender equity project, falls short. Only two of its nine board members are women.
Collingwood, Essendon, Geelong, Hawthorn and North Melbourne all currently have just one female director.
The AFL has been repeatedly criticised for its “boys club” mentality, with Beverley Knight, former Essendon director and the first woman appointed to an AFL club board, accusing the AFL Commission of putting more effort “into mitigating the deeds of mates” than to upholding the game.