Ex-Matildas star slams empty symbols, calls for action on women's sports

March 11, 2017
Melissa Barbieri

“I’d like to call bullshit.” So declared Melissa Barbieri, a former captain of Australian women’s football (soccer) team the Matildas, in a March 9 op-ed at SBS.com.au on the symbolic support for women’s rights offered by sporting clubs and bodies on International Women’s Day.

“There is one day a year where literally everyone puts out something declaring: ‘We support women’,” Barbieri wrote. “So many clubs, companies and people decide that on this day, International Women's Day, they are doing it right and they need to boast about it.”

Yet, the retired goalkeeper said, words uttered one day a year frequently fail to translate into any meaningful action to advance women’s sport.

She wrote: “In 2015 the Victorian government launched the 'Change our Game' initiative after releasing a report from an independent Inquiry that shed light on the gender inequality in Victorian sports and recreation.

“Yesterday several clubs and sporing organisations all claimed: ’We support the Change our Game Initiative by the Victorian Government’.

“For many, this was a statement made but not acted upon.

“If you really did support the Change our Game initiative, why are your female athletes not given the same access to facilities provided to your men or even your youth boys?

“Why don’t they get the same access to resources? Marketing? Equipment? Support? All things you already have in place but are not sharing ...

 “The [players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia’s] proposal to make the W-League one of (if not the most) professional league in the world might seem ambitious, but it’s exactly what women’s football in Australia needs to fulfill its potential ...

“So why now? Because it’s time.

“No other reason is necessary. Not because it’s International Women’s Day or because it looks good but because our girls need to know that they are valued. Our girls need to know there is a pathway for them whatever they choose to be or do.

“So stop with tokenism and start with action. Your legacy can start right now.”

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