Men Only Sports Club – unacceptable!

This post is not as contemporary as some I write, but was away last week, so I hope you will excuse the slight belatedness of this comment, which once again uses sport as its stimulus. I have kept it deliberately contentious and welcome feedback. Maybe some of my thoughts press your buttons!

I have always had a keen interest in sport; a love of cricket and a deep association with rugby, which I played for over 20 years and more than a passing interest in most sports Olympic, I will occasionally glance at soccer and golf. Recently, like many others, I was absorbed by the British Open.

At the start of the Tournament, there was much talk and many column inches devoted to the fact that the venue chosen by the sport’s governing body, Royal St Georges (Sandwich, Kent), is a club that still is men only membership organisation. I heard a club officer tell a radio presenter that things are moving on there because they now allow “the ladies in to play golf at restricted times” (when they don’t get in men’s way) and they can “also go into the clubhouse to play bridge”.

It concerns me that places like this still exist; what messages are given: by the sport’s governing body who chose the venue, by the BBC that televised the tournament and, most importantly, by all the members of this club who go there to play golf. What are they teaching their children – they see their fathers support the exclusions of their mothers and witness their mothers accepting (or hopefully not) this secondary role.

Cricket’s last bastion of men only admission was the Lords Pavilion and Long Room, which turned over 200 years of male-only tradition in March 1999 when women were admitted for the first time. Surely, if cricket can address its sexist heritage so too can other sports.

If women are truly to be given equal status and value in our society, then it should be illegal under equality legislation to allow restricted environments to exist. If they said no gay man or anyone from a BME group could join, then everyone would be up in arms against such discriminatory practice, but it seems to be OK to refuse women’s membership. There seems to be a major hypocrisy here.

By allowing such practices as displayed by Royal St Georges to continue, we are making a clear statement – women can legitimately be discriminated against in the sports club. When translated into the workplace, do we therefore accept that women should not get equal pay, not have the same promotional opportunities and continue to be absent from the board room (another male dominated domain). Is it not time to be clear and unambiguous in our practice?

Discrimination in all guises is wrong and has to be treated as such through the workplace as well as in the sports club.

About equalityedge

I run Equality Edge and its unique and creative "Working with Difference" project. It supports employers and managers in gaining a competitive and cost saving advantage from meeting equality and diversity best practice obligations. Coaching and workshops are used to deliver organisational, team and leadership development, assisting in improving communication and the understanding of the impact difference has on workplace behaviour.
This entry was posted in beyond diversity, discrimination, Equality & Diversity, Equality Act, gender equality, glass ceiling, inequality, Prejudice, Sexism, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Men Only Sports Club – unacceptable!

  1. Chris Markiewicz says:

    Whilst I concur with your assertion that it would have been more appropriate to stage this event in a different club, I’d like to delve deeper than simply making things right or wrong. I think its important to try and understand why such rules still exist in some establishments.

    I was out for a drink with four male friends in my local pub the other night. We were having a wonderful time – plenty of banter and male conviviality. Two of the wives showed up, unexpectedly and joined us. The whole atmosphere changed and, whilst I enjoy the company of the wives, for me at least the evening was spoiled. I had been looking forward to time with my male friends – it was sweet zero to do with lack of equality.

    I know that if I turned up at one of my partner’s nights out with her female friends, she would likely be none too happy.

    Men need time with other men. We need a haven at times where we can be with members of our own sex.

    Likewise women.

    I daresay, I’d have difficulty joining my local WI for example.

    I’m afraid that over zealous judgment and/or legislaton could destroy such opportunities in the name of equality.

    Finally, if equality in sport is of paramount importance, it needs to work both ways – howcome, for example “ladies” still play just three sets at Wimbledon?

  2. Chris Markiewicz says:

    I shared my comment above with my partner last night. She made an excellent point that, all too often, decisions whether, business, political or otherwise are made in such “male only” environments. In excluding women, equality does indeed become compromised – although I still stand by mey view that we all need exclusive time and soace with those of our own sex.

  3. In these sorts of situations it is usually the money that talks.
    Given the negative publicity surrounding the start of the tournament it is likely that the sponsors will not allow the club or clubs with similar outlook to hold the tournament again.

  4. How far do you take equality? Should men be allowed to attend lesbian events and women attend gay events?

    Should all public lavatories be communal? Should the campaign for single sex (gender?) wards in hospitals be declared illegal?

    What should those of trans gender status be allowed to do – nothing or everything?

  5. Reality Checker says:

    Look, it is a club!
    A club is formed by a group of people, because they have something in common.
    The members set the rules on who can join, how to behave, what the club does, how much it costs, etc.
    If some people that are not members of the club do not like the club and what it stands for, they do not join, or apply (they would probably be rejected anyway).
    What is this mentality that you somehow have a right to tell the members of a private club how to run their club or what members to accept?
    If you are not a member, it is none of your business.
    If you are a member, you bring it up in the appropriate ways according to the club doctrine – not like this.
    Until all men are allowed to play on the LPGA Tour, join lesbian clubs and attend all women events, this argument is downright silly and an attempt to infringe on civil rights.
    I suggest you go get a life!
    My opinion only

    Enjoy the summer and play a round of golf with the women.

    • equalityedge says:

      As always, this type of blog stimulates a good deal of interest and I thank you for your response. I keep my comments contentious to stimulate replies, which this article certainly has.

      Whereas I have great concerns about gender equality, particularly in the workplace, I do not propose that any man should be able to attend any women’s event or vice versa. As you say that would be silly. What I do challenge is a rule book created by one group that precludes equality of participation of another person or group because of their protected characteristic (see Equality Act 2010); that by definition is discrimination. It is that I want to challenge.

      With regard to parity in sport, I can only think of equestrian events where women are able to compete as equals with men; perhaps you know of others. I understand that recently a woman jockey has won a Group 1 race for the first time. Women have always competed successfully on horseback; I’m sure many of us can think of winning riders in Olympic and other events.

      A few years ago, Michelle Wie attempted to join the men’s golf tour and was largely unsuccessful in a competitive context, but very challenging for the golfing establishment and empowering to the female cause on the golf course. In 1973, after chauvinistic comments about women’s tennis from Bobby Riggs an older male player, Billy Jean King accepted a challenge to play him. She saw this as a pride match, which she duly won.

      With these examples, I do not suggest that all sport should be open to all people. They are certainly exceptions. Whether women can compete against men in open events is open to the rules of individual sports’ governing bodies, but they should perhaps be free to try to qualify for them.

      I repeat my comment about creating a discriminatory rule book – it should be seen as just that and treated accordingly.

  6. Alan Og says:

    Interesting topic, I am sure opinions will be polarised. I have some sympathy with the equality debate, but I also believe people can get overly precious about it. After all, Royal St Georges is a private club and they should be able to adopt the rules they choose as long as it sits within the legal framework. I am sure that in good time, things will change as they did at Lords.

    As far as the BBC is concerned (not my faviourite organisation I must say), I think that by agreeing to cover the event, they absolutely did the female equality debate a power of good by bringing this to the attention of millions of avid viewers, so I can’t agree with you Michael about their decision to support the event by filming it. Also, there would have been far wider implications (some commercial I accept) of the BBC choosing not to screen the event.

    I think we are living in a sterile state where everyone has to (or be seen to) have the same opinion on matters such as this, and there are many examples of things being the other way around. I have always been brought up to respect other people’s opinons, challenge them by all means, but not to expect that everyone shares the opinions and core values that I do. Wouldn’t life be dull if we all felt the same. I like Chris by the way would love to join the WI !!

    Let me give an example at my Golf Club. Our Ladies section (am I allowed to call it this, better stick to female !) ALLEGEDLY raised a number of issues about playing rights. (Previously, they were only allowed to tee off at the weekend after 10.30 am, although they do and still have Ladies (Female) day on a Tuesday). Accordingly, the restrictions were lifted (although Tuesday still remains Ladies (Female) Day) but when they were then asked if they would be prepared to pay the full membership fee, (female members pay about £300 per year less than full male members), naturally they resisted it. The point I make is that people who strive for equality (and they have my full support in doing so) should accept everything that comes with it, and not just what suits them. So, sorry, in my opinion, ladies should play 5 set matches (they compete in marathons, so are very well capable of doing so) for them to attract the same prize money as men at Wimbledon which they do.

    All of which brings me to the conclusion that issues such as female equality are changing, and it is well publicised events such as this which help to fuel the natural process of change. But I would add that people should not be vilified with such venom should their views differ from the norm, and it is this which disturbs me about some of the campaigners for the varying equality debates. Perhaps people on their high horse about these issues should consider the plight of those who are much less fortunate than ourselves, living in deprived areas with corrupt governments with little or no chance of survival. Were they be allowed to air their views about fairness and equality, I suspect that gender and age equality would be low on their list of priorities. They may consider that all children in this day and age should be entitled the opportunity to live a full and healthy life.

    Its not that I disagree with the campaigners which in most cases I don’t, more the way in which at times “some” people force feed and impose their views and make political capital out of well publicised events.

    Really interesting topic Michael, keep them coming

  7. zube100 says:

    I would like to join an all female gym. I think that would be far more interesting than the mixed gym I go to now, where ladies have their own area for training.

    But I can’t. Because I am the wrong gender.

    I assume you will be fighting my case for me on grounds of discrimination?

    Or should I just accept that private clubs have the right to make their own rules and it’s not anyone else’s business?

  8. Jose jacobs says:

    I agree that men only clubs should be banished I was disgutested at the golf club that does not allow woman, what would men say if there were woman only clubs?

  9. Paul says:

    I’m underwhelmed by the issue of privileged western women not being able to join a sports club set up for privileged western men. Surely there are weightier issues of injustice in the world. I’m sorry, this comes across as either champagne socialist posturing (“we care about justice” – protesting too much!!!) or wooly liberal idealism that we should all be exactly the same. Someone here has already suggested “get a life”. I add my suggestion: to extend your reading beyond the Guardian.

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