Cricket Victoria has thrown its support behind a gender-based state government policy set to radically shake up leadership in sport.
The cricket body says it will embrace a controversial government initiative aimed at increasing the number of women in board positions throughout sporting associations and peak bodies.
A mandate that women must fill at least 40 per cent of the top leadership positions in sport is part of a series of recommendations made by a special advisory committee on women and girls in sport – a report that the government is set to adopt in full.
Sports that do not achieve the close-to-even split along gender lines in their top administration will risk missing out on government funding.
While several officials from sporting organisations expressed private concerns to Fairfax Media on Thursday, Cricket Victoria chief executive Tony Dodemaide said his organisation was “fully engaged” in the plan, even though it would mean a shift in the board’s make-up.
With only two women representatives on its nine-person board, Cricket Victoria would have to appoint at least two more female figures to its executive to fulfil the funding mandate, unless it downsized.
“We are already on this path. There is nothing in this proposal that is offensive to us at all,” Dodemaide said.
“We understand that women make up 51 per cent of the population and there is a real growth opportunity there.
“We are very much looking forward to seeing the report and the recommendations in full. But in general terms, cricket has been pro-active in looking to increase the prominence of women in sport.
“We’ve gone from, only a few years ago, having no women on the board to now having two out of nine, and we are looking at more opportunities.”
Dodemaide said Cricket Victoria hoped to be one of the leaders, and pointed to the newly formed women’s Twenty20 Big Bash League – in which Melbourne has two teams in the domestic competition – as a way that cricket has take a key role in promoting women’s sport.
“That is very much increasing women’s participation, exciting young girls to take up the sport and we are very keen to grow the base even more,” Dodemaide said.
The government is yet to release information on exactly which sporting organisations would need to comply and whether, for instance, AFL clubs would need to meet the gender balance to be eligible for funding.
Some sports officials contacted by Fairfax Media on Thursday were supportive of the concept, but expressed private fears that achieving the implementation could be problematic.
The timeframe for sports to make the transition at board level is reported to be about three years.
The government has already said that local sporting clubs will not have to comply.
Like Cricket Victoria, the sport’s national peak body – Cricket Australia – currently has two female executives on its nine-person board.
However, funding from the Victorian state government is not a factor for the national body, so the policy will have little impact.
Cricket Victoria, meanwhile, does benefit from funding from the state government, particularly at the game development level.
Dodemaide said he expected all sports to have “constitutional factors” to consider and other challenges in making the transition to an increased female presence on their boards. And he agreed that the change would take time.
“We’ve got directors that are in place and they have terms,” he said.
“Board members are very valuable, so it’s not just a case of saying ‘ok, we’ve got to sack you now’.”
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