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.