SYDNEY – Australian basketball officials Friday said they would review travel policies after stinging criticism that the men’s team travelled to the London Olympics in business class but the women in economy.
Sports Minister Kate Lundy called for more equitable arrangements after learning that the Australian Opals, captained by global star Lauren Jackson, a WNBA three-time Most Valuable Player, flew premium economy.
“My view is that team travel should be equitable for our male and female athletes,” Lundy told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Basketball Australia said each national team was allowed some discretion over how their funding was spent — including on travel arrangements — but noted the inequality needed to change.
“The simple fact is when a policy results in gender inequality, it’s very clearly not the right policy going forward,” acting chief executive Scott Derwin said.
“I am putting in place a review of our Olympic travel policy with the goal of ensuring there is equity between travel arrangements for the men’s and women’s teams attending future Olympics.”
Kristina Keneally, who takes over from Derwin next month, welcomed the review as she hit out at the long-standing policy under which men are reportedly allowed to fly business class for flights longer than three hours.
“In this day and age, there’s just no excuse for men’s and women’s sporting teams to be treated differently when they both compete at the same world class level,” she said.
“In this circumstance, the disparity is even more glaring when you consider that our women’s basketball team is one of the best in the world — enjoying the number two spot in international rankings.”
Bernie Harrower, whose daughter Kristi plays for the Opals, said players had complained internally about the policy for years.
“It’s always been a bone of contention amongst people in the know that the women have always flown, wherever they have gone, they have always flown in economy and the men have gone business class,” he told ABC radio.
Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick described the disparity as “a highly visible example of gender inequality for our best athletes”.
“Not good enough,” she tweeted.
The Australian Olympic Committee said it provided travel subsidies for return economy fares on Qantas Airways for all athletes competing at the Games and it was up to sports administrators to determine how they were used.
The outcry comes after it was revealed that Japan’s world champion women footballers were seated in premium economy while their male colleagues enjoyed business class on a flight to Europe for the Olympics.
“I guess it should have been the other way around,” World Cup heroine and 2011 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Homare Sawa told Japanese media.
“When we won the World Cup, our seats were changed to business class for our return flight. I hope we can produce a good result again and be treated the same way.”