Despite some positive advances, gender equity in sport remains a distant reality for thousands of women players globally. Player associations from around the world, under the umbrella of the ‘Roar Room’ initiative led by the World Players Association (WPA), are now coming together to lead a movement for change and achieve a better future for women players.
The Roar Room brings together current and former athletes, player association leaders, industry stakeholders and pre-eminent experts committed to winning fights –big and small – as women players organize for better conditions for themselves and the generations of players to come. As the global umbrella organization bringing together 85,000 players, through almost 130 player associations, in nearly 70 countries the WPA is uniquely placed to harness the leadership of its affiliates and leverage the global network to do so.
World Players Association Player Relations Coordinator, Gabriela Garton, said:
“The Roar Room is a safe space for connection and tough, honest discussions around the role of player associations in engaging with female athletes and their struggle for gender equity. Across sport we are seeing the activist profile of many women athletes, the proliferation of organic organizing and collective action and fledgling governance, commercial and regulatory landscapes. This means the opportunity exists for player associations not only to lead in the representation of female athletes, but also to create a different and even better version of professional sport than the existing reality for many male athletes.”
This is especially important given the moment women’s sport finds itself in globally. Underscoring the immense untapped economic potential of women’s sport, the recent edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup was the most watched and profitable since the tournament’s began in 1991, generating the second-highest income of any sporting event worldwide besides the men’s World Cup. At the same time, women players are still confronted with profound challenges in relation to equal pay; safe and healthy workplaces free from harassment, abuse, and discrimination; and a lack of professional and personal development pathways that allow them to achieve their full potential on and off the field of play.
As part of a wider dedicated strategy to address gender equity in sport, the WPA has been hosting various online ‘Roar Room’ capacity building workshops featuring international experts and leading voices – these include pay equity expert Yolanda Beattie, internationally recognized human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson, player rights and human rights lawyer Kat Craig, EDI expert Donna Fraser (Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, PCA), Terri Jackson (Executive Director, WNBPA), Paul Marsh (CEO, AFLPA), Kathryn Gill and Beau Busch (Co-CEOs, PFA Australia) and Sarah Gregorious (Director Global Policy & Strategic Relations, Women’s Football, FIFPRO) – as well as players from a variety of sports – cricket, football, rugby, futsal and swimming – and regions – Latin America, Europe and Australia.
The appetite and need to increase the focus on women’s sport has only increased and the Roar Room will be rolled out through a series of in person events throughout 2024 as player associations continue to organize for reform. This will start with the inaugural Roar Room for Gender Equity Conference organized in collaboration with the Australian Athletes Alliance in Melbourne, Australia on 16-17 January followed by two events later in the year which will take place in Europe and North America.
The WPA looks forward to continuing to bring players and experts together to set the agenda for women’s sport and change the industry, and ultimately to build a better future for women players so their dignity as athletes and people is respected.