Commentary | How to even the funds playing field for women’s sports

I am very glad to see The Daily trying to take on the culture of apathy that’s become entrenched in our campus. But I fear that Katie Esmonde’s article (“Martlets sing to empty seats,” Sports, November 8) runs the risk of being misinterpreted and turning into another conflagration against institutional sexism. Sexism has a lot to do with why the stands are empty at Martlets games. But the problem is not as simple as a lack of funding or society’s general attitude toward women’s sports.

Firstly, it should be known that both Canadian Interuniversity Sport and the National Collegiate Athletic Association enforces a “funding parity,” meaning that the dollar amount put into any two teams of the same sport has to be the same for men’s and women’s. The time spent on promoting teams might be different, and priority on practice time and space is usually given to men’s, but they are financially equal. When people talk about the funding disparity, most people either fail to mention or fail to realize that a huge amount of that money comes from private alumni donations and proceeds from ticket sales.

The facts are that in most cases, men’s sports generate income for the school, while women’s sports operate at a deficit. Administrators are forced (whether they like it or not) to allocate their non-financial assets (i.e., facilities, and effort in promoting games) to the teams that are most likely to generate a profit, or in McGill’s case, reduce the deficit.

The argument has been made that with a little extra effort spent on promotion, women’s sports could become more profitable, and thus worthy of more equal attention from administrators. Plausible, but it’s not likely that an increase in advertising or sponsored events would make even the most successful teams, like our Martlets hockey team, an overnight cash-cow.

The article alludes to the sad fact that there isn’t much opportunity for talented women to play professionally. True, but it’s not as though people haven’t tried before. Defunct women’s leagues in this country include the Central Ontario Women’s Hockey League and the Women’s National Hockey League, and there is the still-extant Canadian Women’s Hockey League. How many of you reading even knew that? My bet is few to none. Is that because the leagues are not advertising, or the networks don’t show the games, or because you, yourself, don’t even care?
People on campus already know that women’s hockey games happen, and they already know we have the best team in the country. The question is why they don’t show. As Cathy Chartrand pointed out in her interview, the average sports fan “doesn’t buy into it.” They want to see the speed, the hitting, and the fighting. The bottom line is, you will never be able to convince the majority of people who actually pay to watch sports that women’s sports are as exciting as men’s sports because women’s sports don’t offer what they are looking for. Is the average sports fan an idiot? Yes. Is it reasonable to expect someone (even someone that stupid) to spend their money on something they don’t like? No.

This is where you come in. You are an educated person who reads your school newspaper because you care about things on your campus. You are thoughtful, so you would notice the “technique, good plays, [and] finesse” of the women’s game. You are reasonable, so you could be convinced that women’s sports are as exciting as men’s sports. The point of the article was not that McGill Athletics and sports fans are sexist and somebody should do something about them. It’s this: If you think women’s sports are important enough to deserve more funding, then show up. Go to the stadium, buy a ticket, and cheer loud. If you don’t do that, you are just supporting the status quo through inaction.