Resolving inequalities in sport
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footballers compete on the beach
Equal pay for female athletes, retaining talent in developing nations and restoring integrity to professional sport.

Across the world sports, like culture, has become rooted in everyday practice and conversations. From daily curated warmups to hoisting of country flags as we share sporting memories and give support to the various favourite teams we watch. Essentially, amidst uncertain times, the potential of sports has served as a platform to promote social inclusion, and foster collaboration and solidarity among people of diverse backgrounds.

The rosy appearance of sports does not hide the realities of contradictions incorporated in modern sports, which in recent times, have trended as a paradox of arguments in the news and on social media. One of the glaring conflicts with in sports, which sparks constant debate, is gender pay disparities. The frenzy of gender pay inequalities, in recent times, is evident in the woeful fraction of what is received by female sports teams as likened to their male counterparts.

In Ghana, the Black Queens had to demand for unpaid bonuses from the Ghana Football Federation, which compared to their male counterparts, it is a different pay ‘ball game’ altogether. The women’s team employed the ‘no pay, no play’ strategy to gain an upper hand in the negotiations for their bonuses during the 2018 Total Women’s African Cup of Nations. Recently, the United States women’s soccer team made the news when they pushed for equity in pay as well as the Danish Women’s soccer team. Their claims were hinged on ‘equal work, equal pay’ which comes on the back of, not just a claim to pay disputes, but also an underappreciation of women’s achievements as a conflict inherent within sports in general.

The conflict, explained in a recent study published in Journal of the Philosophy of Sports, presents itself in labour rights conversations as the exception and not the rule. The study further draws on the concept of historical injustices which presents the matter of gender pay disparities as both a political and moral obligation. Deducing from the study, a resolve can be arrived at when sports associations recognise the need to amend, per the role they played in side-lining women’s sports, and also uprooting structures which enforces discrimination and violence in sports. The role of strengthening social policies which recognises and acknowledges the worth of skills exhibited in an arena and placing value on it by paying what is due is one way to begin a resolution of the conflict.

An essential aspect of sports is the sense of identity athletes feel towards the game and the country they represent. Most sporting countries always like to attract the best of athletes to compete in various sporting fields. In attracting the best athletes, they are baited with the packages of citizenship and benefits. Across Europe, this has been the practice which robs many developing nations of the talents they nurture. Some countries across the Emirates and Gulf regions too follow in similar suit. Ghana has lost potential top athletes who have been given the best of foundations by Ghana to developed countries like USA.

In the case of Martha Bissah, a female long distance runner was banned from competing for her home country in June 2016 and was embraced by another. Bissah states that she was practically rejected by all including her team mates and that she had no coach to train her. As problematic as this scenario is, a resolve can be attained when athletes reduce ‘nationalistic associations’ by competing as individual athletes in global sports events. This idea is not farfetched as it is captured in the Olympic Charter. On the other hand, embracing this process, an article writes, may hamper ethnic minority athlete’s sense of belonging and integration into national teams. However, the onus lies on sports playing a more inclusive role by making room for grassroots sports development and involvement of youth in an empowering manner. To embrace sports as a unifier not one which ultimately divides us.

Inherent in sports are issues of doping and drug policy, which has become problematic over the years. There is also the challenge of age fraud, over commercialisation of sports, match fixing and underdevelopment of grassroots sports, which taunts the game that we love. Together with other challenges, these examples draw attention to the active role played by sports organisations and the need for intense public policy advocacy to minimise conflicts and contradictions inherent within modern sports.

Belinda Osei-Mensah, is a Communication and Media Studies (MPhil) graduate in the Department of Communication and Media Studies from the University of Education, Winneba (UEW). Her research is mainly in the fields of media studies, development communication, African pop culture and new media studies. A photographer and a former basketball player for the UEW Women’s Basketball team and an author of social media and cyberbullying: a study of female celebrities in Ghana (Osei-Mensah, 2018). She tweets in a personal capacity at @fr3me_bella.


United States
North America
Football (Soccer)
Sustainable Development Goals
5 - Gender equality
Target Group
Girls and women

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