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Emily Smith's ban for sharing team news on Instagram exposes a bigger problem

Why have more women than men faced punishments under Cricket Australia's anti-corruption code in recent years? The answer lies in representation

Isabelle Westbury
Emily Smith talks to the media ahead of the WBBL semis, Perth, January 31, 2018

Women cricketers are subject to the same rules as the men but don't enjoy all the same benefits  •  Getty Images

Made by men for men. This, at its heart, appears the issue behind the recent announcement that Emily Smith, a professional cricketer for the Hobart Hurricanes, has been banned from cricket for a year (nine months suspended). Cricket Australia's anti-corruption code is clear and Smith's lighthearted post on social media revealing the Hurricanes' line-up for a match an hour before it was officially announced contravened it.
It was in part a careless error by Smith but there's more to it: when first drafting the code, the lawmakers could not have contemplated it being applied to a new class of professional athlete. Women now play as professional cricketers, but for a better part of their development years, their expectations, education and social interactions were built on the assumption that sport would remain a voluntary pastime for them.
Over the last five years nearly all anti-corruption violations under CA's remit have been perpetrated by women. None, it is understood, have been suspected of malicious intent. Considering more men than women are subject to CA's anti-corruption code, this makes for an alarming trend.
The authorities will tell you that professional women receive just as much education on corruption and doping, and on all the rules and regulations they must comply with, as the men. We also know that corruption in cricket remains a present and, in light of the rapid elevation of the women's game globally, growing threat. Ample deterrents are sorely needed, and CA's robust regulations conform to this.
On paper, the sanction against Smith is a fair outcome. But there is a disconnect, because however much cricket's authorities want to rid the game of corruption, banning ill-considered, but not ill-intended, women from the very game we are trying to encourage them towards was surely never the purpose.
Do we claim gender discrimination, an active marginalisation of women? Of course not. CA is doing more than any other board to remedy the lack of female representation. But there is a delay between securing more female representation at an administrative level and the effect that their presence has on the underlying codes (and the professional female players already subject to them).
Professional women's cricket remains in development. While attention, care and investment is improving, it's on a pathway. There is no parity yet. However, the rules, regulations and ensuing expectations to which the women are bound are the same as those for the men. It is an easy argument that this is the route towards equality: hold women up to the same standards and we will prove that we can succeed, that we have arrived, that we are full-time professionals. If women want to receive the same benefits, they must comply with the same rules.
Only, women don't receive the same benefits, not yet, whether it be in terms of pay, media coverage, access to coaches, to facilities, or simply the number of professional contracts available. And even if they did, there is a transition to be made. The trend of women suffering sanctions almost exclusively supports this assertion.
I say women professionals are "new" as a relative term, because in Australia, where Smith's indiscretion occurred, professional female cricketers have been around for more than a decade. But they are new relative to the status quo, of men's cricket, which has been professional for ten times that length of time. In the journey towards gender equality in sport, we have passed the first phase, the growth of female representation on the pitch. This, with a few hurdles along the way, is on a steadily upward trajectory.
What is taking longer and is less obvious is phase two: increasing the number of women behind the scenes, working as coaches, selectors, administrators; drafting the regulations, overseeing anti-corruption codes and the sanctions for their breach, and organising education initiatives. Common sense, you might think, when many of those to whom these sanctions and codes apply are now women.
For most of WBBL athletes' playing careers, they have been not only amateur but have received little attention, good or bad, from either the media or any cricket institution. No one cared what women did when they played cricket, whether they trained hard, took illicit drugs or live-tweeted scores from their mobile phones on the side of the pitch in between overs in a marginal effort to drum up interest. Because there wasn't any interest. Suddenly, there is.
Smith posted an Instagram picture of the Hurricanes' starting line-up because she had probably done so a dozen times before. Nobody cared then because nobody was watching. Now they are, the rules are different, and the harsh lesson is hers to learn.
But it shouldn't just be a lesson for Smith. Just as lottery winners are more likely to go bankrupt than their peers, unexpected professionalism - at least unexpected from the perspective of these female athletes - has its repercussions.
CA, or the Hobart Hurricanes, cannot hide behind the defence that there had been education sessions, a clear code, that the warnings were there. Because it's not just about a pretty PowerPoint laying down the ground rules; it's about changing a culture of amateurism, of light-hearted humour, of using any tools possible to increase the profile of women's sport when no official body would. Those bodies are now acting, shifting the burden, but the mindset doesn't change overnight.
What about all these young men, boys even, entering the professional fold? Are they not vulnerable too? Not to the same degree; they have a template in place, moulded by those who, for the last however many decades, have trodden the same path. These are the players surrounding these young men; many of the administrators drafting the regulations that govern these men's professional lives are these players and former players. Drawing from our own experiences is a natural human instinct and a fair marker from which to start, but women do not yet have that liberty. CA is changing that, but it is yet to take effect.
For now it is the players suffering the full repercussions, not the staff under whose care they fall, nor the decision-makers. Interestingly, or perhaps it is now obvious, none of those sanctioned in recent years had been playing international cricket at the time. Professionalism, to them, is still a novelty. The one male to fall foul was a 21-year-old Futures League Player, and by virtue of being contracted on a match-by-match basis, his ban was wholly suspended for two years. The women had no such mitigating factor.
The female athletes may deserve a sanction, but being hit by such an extreme one suggests a gaping hole in a system that is there in the first instance to protect the players. The mental anguish that awaits Smith, not to mention the tangible monetary loss she will face, should rest heavily on those entrusted to look after her. She is by no means a mainstay of the professional roster and her future as a contracted player now looks uncertain.
I have no doubt that CA's intent was never to sanction these female players unduly, or to unfairly target young women, but that is the outcome. It is also an outcome that rests uneasily in an arm of cricket that has done so much to increase participation and investment, to embrace the spirit in which the game is played, and to end homophobia.
If we want the results to change, the methods must too, and that starts at the top. This is not a potshot at Cricket Australia, but for us all to take heed of. Increase representation now, in those unseen roles, or the effects of failing to do so will be thrust upon us in plain, unwelcome, sight.
Former Middlesex captain Isabelle Westbury writes for the Telegraph and works as a sports broadcaster for the BBC.