Australia women's cricketers get major pay boost
Members of the Australia women's cricket team will be among the country's highest-paid female athletes as part of a restructure of the Cricket Australia contract system. The leading players could earn up to $80,000 over the next year as part of the new payment programme, with the top player retainer having increased from $15,000 to $52,000 and the minimum retainer having been boosted from $5000 to $25,000.
There has also been a substantial increase in the player tour payments from $100 a day to $250 a day, which could add up significantly over the next year, when the national team will be touring for 85 days. Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland said the move was "a landmark step" for women's cricket and a fine recognition of the success of the Australians, who currently hold both the World Cup and World Twenty20 titles.
"We are still working towards the day when Australia's female cricketers will be able to earn a full-time, professional living from cricket," Sutherland said. "But the performances of our female stars justify this step and the day will come when future, full-time professional female cricketers will look back and thank those who went before them."
Sutherland said the success of the national team had contributed to a boost in female cricket participation, which has increased by 18% in the past year to 180,000 female participants across Australia. State players will also benefit from the cash injection, with Cricket Australia to provide each state and the ACT with $100,000 a year to help fund minimum standards for women's cricketers contracted to play in the national competitions.
"This is a massive boost for women's cricket in Australia and I know all players thank CA and ACA [the Australian Cricketers' Association] for agreeing to this additional funding," current Australia player Alex Blackwell said. "Female players have never been better supported. With women's cricket growing both here and internationally, the opportunities for players are increasing. These extra dollars will help strike a balance between the sacrifices required to reach the top levels and the rewards that come with this. It's a great time to be playing and makes you look at the upcoming season with a huge level of excitement."
Lisa Sthalekar, who has recently retired from international cricket but remains a member of the ACA executive, said: "For such a long time, female cricketers have trained and played at the highest levels but took a financial hit to do so. From paying for a lot of their expenses to sacrificing earnings for time away from work, the cost has been significant to this point - and forced too many players to retire prematurely. These funds help show how far women's cricket has come in recent times and will provide a wonderful incentive to current and future players to follow their dreams within a more supportive financial environment."
The first group of national players who will benefit from the new payment system has also been named. Fourteen players will be contracted for the next year, down from 18 last season, with the intention to concentrate on a core group of players.
Holly Ferling, 17, has been added to the squad after impressing on debut at the World Cup earlier this year, while other additions from last year's list include Ellyse Villani and Megan Schutt. Along with the newly-retired Sthalekar, the other players left out from the 2012-13 squad are Lauren Ebsary, Sarah Elliott, Sharon Millanta and Leah Poulton.
Contract list for 2013-14 Alex Blackwell, Jess Cameron, Sarah Coyte, Holly Ferling, Jodie Fields, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Julie Hunter, Jess Jonassen, Meg Lanning, Erin Osborne, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here