For the fourth consecutive year in 2016, Melbourne earned the title of the greatest sporting city in the world.

In the past ten years, we have hosted many major sporting events, such as the 2010 UCI Road Cycling World Championships, the 2011 President’s Cup Golf Tournament, the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, the 2014 World Cup of Golf, the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, and the International Champions Cup, along with many more. Each of these events has served to strengthen Melbourne’s reputation as the best location in the world for hosting major sporting events.

What should be highlighted more frequently is our participation in sport. Any part of the city you go to, you will come across people of different ages, different nationalities, and of all genders uniting to play every type of sport you can think of.

We love the increasing inclusion of females in the commercial sports realm – but why exactly has this taken so long? The answer is ‘commercial use.’ The Australian Sports Commission undertook a study on female sports between 2012 and 2014. The result was the Women in Sports Broadcasting Analysis report, which found that women’s sport accounts for seven per cent of the total television sport coverage and only six per cent of television and print news.

There just is not enough coverage for women in Australian sport, whether they play AFLW, WNBL, netball, or the W-League.  Besides the ongoing successes and strong participation levels of women in sport there has been a decline in coverage of 11%, compared to coverage of male events at 81%. The problem isn’t that women don’t want to play sports – we have an enormously gender diverse sporting country – it’s that the commercial viability is not there to cover it adequately.

Sporting organisations have now slowly started to showcase female competitions, such as the AFLW, who for the first time have created a female division of Australia’s very own AFL. The games that were broadcast from this female AFL league were viewed in large numbers, but the pay of these players still pales in comparison to their male counterparts. The latest female sporting event to be commercially broadcast is the Big Bash, which is taking place in Australia.

Cricket Australia announced that they will be streaming all 47 WBBL games on cricket.com.au and Facebook while Channel TEN will broadcast 12 matches compared to their 10 matches last year. This upward trend of creating more coverage for female-centric sporting events will allow for larger exposure, and more awareness amongst everyday Australians, which is a wonderful thing. If a young girl can tune into Channel TEN and see a woman like herself dominating the cricket pitch, it could inspire her to pursue a career she never thought possible beforehand. That is what is powerful about leagues such as the WBBL – they create opportunity, simply through exposure.

The Melbourne Renegades, one of the WBBL‘s female cricket teams, have voiced their concern with the lack of commercial broadcasting stating that “Women and girls deserve the same opportunities as men and boys.” Not only do they deserve the same opportunities – they deserve the same coverage and the same pay.

The team have partnered with VicHealth in an effort to raise the focus of female sport in Victoria. Molly Strano, a member of The Melbourne Renegades, has made clear her passion for equality in sports, and her determination to achieve that – “As it stands at the moment, domestic cricketers would be classified as semi-professional athletes. In an ideal world, I’d love to see the sport become fully professional. This would allow for me and my team mates to dedicate more time to our training and to improving our skills.”

An important issue that has arisen from this year’s Big Bash is the player salary disparity between male and female athletes. This year, a female cricketer will receive a salary between $3000 and $10,000, while the average male cricket will receiver a minimum of $20,000. The major difference is that one can live on $20,000 – on $3000, one cannot. This means that many female athletes have to work other jobs in order to pay the bills, rather than being able to focus on their sporting career, as male athletes can.

The increase in broadcasting exposure and salary is a step closer to equality, and thus an important step towards further professionalising women’s cricket, and women’s sport overall. Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland has said, “We are still working towards the day when Australia’s female cricketers will be able to earn a full-time, professional living from cricket.”

All across the board, we need to work for equality. Which is why it is so important for avenues such as the WBBL and the AFLW to exist – they create opportunities and raise awareness and knowledge about female leagues, which in turn prompts more people to be interested, leading to the commercial viability required to pay liveable salaries to these athletes in the future. We have a way to go, but we live in an exciting time in which women being a part of commercial sport is becoming more and more accepted, and soon there will be no divide between women and men in sport – they will each just be considered athletes regardless of their gender, which is truly the way it should be.