Women's professional sports

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Professional athletes are distinguished from amateur athletes by virtue of being paid. Throughout the world, most top female athletes are not paid, and work full-time or part-time jobs in addition to their training, practice and competition schedules. Women's professional sports organizations defy this trend. Such organizations are relatively new, and are most common in very economically developed countries, where investors are available to buy teams, and businesses can afford to sponsor them in exchange for publicity and promotion of their products. Very few governments support professional sports, male or female.

History[edit]

Beginning in the late 1960s, a few women gained enough recognition for their athletic talent and social acceptance as role models to earn a living playing sports. Most of these were in the United States. Among them was Joan Weston, a roller derby star who was once the highest paid female in sports, but she was the exception rather than the rule.

Things began to change in 1973 when Billie Jean King won "the Battle of the Sexes" and cracked the glass ceiling on pay for female athletes. Other players, like Martina Navratilova, broke through that ceiling, decreasing the gap between women and men athlete's pay on a regular basis rather than occasionally.

Even now, in the 21st century, most professional women athletes around the world receive very little notoriety or pay compared to men. Life acknowledged the importance of King's achievement in 1990 by naming her one of the "100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century."

United States[edit]

Though women have been pro athletes in the United States, since the early 1900s, paid teams, leagues and athletes are still uncommon and, as of 2013, paid far less than their male counterparts. For instance, the WNBA had its first season in 1997, 51 years after inception of the men's NBA. The WNBA (under the NBA Board of Governors) pays the top women players 60 times less than the top men. In 2005, the WNBA team salary cap was $0.673 million.[1] The NBA cap was over 60 times higher, at $43.87 million.[2] The Women's United Soccer Association became the first American women's pro league in 2001, but lasted only briefly because of financial sponsorship. Fans enjoyed women's pro soccer for three seasons before executives[3] announced suspension of the league, despite the Women's national soccer team's rating [4] as one of the world's top teams. Absence of a Women's professional football (soccer) league in the United States made it difficult for the Soccer women's national football team to find new players until Women's Professional Soccer was founded. A 2004 effort to revive the WUSA [5] was launched. On September 4, 2007, a new North American women's professional football league, tentatively named Women's Soccer LLC, was announced,[6] and ultimately launched in 2009 as Women's Professional Soccer.

As of 2013, the only sports that men but not women play professionally in the United States are football, baseball, ice hockey, and Ultimate Frisbee.

Association football[edit]

The Women's Professional Soccer league, formed in September 2007, began its league play in March 2009.[7] In its final season in 2011, there were six teams in the eastern United States. The WPS canceled the 2012 season when the number of teams dropped to five after Dan Borislow's team in South Florida magicJack was terminated by the league. The WPS hoped to continue the season in 2013 with at least six teams and eight in the 2014 season, but ultimately folded in May 2012 because of legal and financial troubles.

In November, 2012, the US, Mexican and Canadian soccer federations announced the establishment of the National Women's Soccer League which will begin play in 2013. The three federations will provide salaries to a number of players across the eight-team league to lessen the costs of the rosters and provide development opportunities for the players. The US Soccer Federation will operate as the front office for the leagues.

Baseball[edit]

Since many men were on the battlefield during the Second World War, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), in place of Major League Baseball, was created in 1943 to provide entertainment of people exhausted by the war. It was such a success that the number of people who attended women's baseball games reached almost 1 million in 1948. Yet, when the war ended and Major League Baseball players came back home, female baseball players were obliged to fill the role of housewife at home. AAGBL lost its audience, struggled with finances, and ceased to exist in 1954.

Forty years later, in 1994, a businessman in Atlanta struck a $3 million sponsorship deal with Coors and formed a women's professional baseball team called the Colorado Silver Bullets. About 20 members were selected from 1,300 baseball players nationwide for this team. The Bullets played games with men's semiprofessional teams and regional teams. After the birth of the Ladies League Baseball in 1997, it included four teams. The Bullets fought with them.[clarification needed]

The Ladies League Baseball changed its name into the Ladies Pro Baseball and added two teams into the league in 1998. However, after the first month, the league was suspended due to the financial difficulties of its sponsors. The Bullets folded in 1998 after Coors terminated its contract.

Basketball[edit]

There are many countries where women's professional basketball league exists besides the United States, such as Italy, Germany, Spain, and Brazil. Many Americans players went overseas and some WNBA players play basketball in foreign countries during WNBA's off-season.

The Women's Professional Basketball League (WBL) was a professional women's basketball league in the United States. The league played three seasons from the fall of 1978 to the spring of 1981. The league is generally considered to be the first American professional women's basketball league to be founded. The next league was the Women's American Basketball Association and the Women's Basketball Association (WBA) [8] The WABA/WBA was a professional women's basketball league in the United States. The league played three seasons from the summer of 1993 to the summer of 1995.[9] The league is considered to be the first American professional women's basketball league to be successful as a summer league, like the WNBA. Also the American Basketball League (ABL) was founded in 1996 during an increase in the interest in the sport following the 1996 Summer Olympics. The league played two full season (1996–97 and 1997–98) and started a third (1998–99) before it folded on December 22, 1998.

Golf[edit]

The LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) was founded in 1950 and is the longest running women's professional sports association.[10]

Horse Racing[edit]

In 1906 Lula Olive Gill became the first female jockey to win a horse race in California; later that same year, Ada Evans Dean rode her own horse to victory after her jockey had become ill. Indeed, Dean won twice — in spite of never having raced before.[11]

Kathy Kusner mounted a successful legal case in 1968 to become the first licensed female jockey in the United States.[12] Since the age of 16, she had been regularly winning unrecognized flat and timber races.[13] As a licensed jockey, she rode races up and down the eastern seaboard and Canada and became the first licensed female jockey to ride races in Mexico, Germany, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Panama, South Africa, and what was then Rhodesia.[14] She was also the first woman to ride in the Maryland Hunt Cup, the toughest timber race in the world.[15] ABC Television filmed an award-winning documentary in Saratoga about her being the first woman in modern times to ride in a steeplechase at the racetrack.[16]

Softball[edit]

The first women's professional softball league was established in 1976, but it only lasted for four years because of its financial reasons and failure in marketing. In 1994, the National Pro Fastpitch emerged to prepare a rebirth of the professional league, which came into existence with 6 teams in 1997. As of 2012, the league has 4 teams that play 44 games each and then participate in the Championship Series.[17] The league is expected to expand "due to on-going expansion efforts".[18]

Tennis[edit]

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) was founded in 1973 with Billie Jean King at the forefront.[19] It is widely considered the most successful and popular of any organization in women's professional sports. The league has over 2,500 players from 92 nations, and it has over $100 million in prize money for 54 tournaments and 4 Grand Slams in 33 countries.[20]

Volleyball[edit]

The Women's Professional Volleyball Association was established in 1986. The association organized professional 6-player indoor volleyball leagues and beach volleyball leagues, such as Budlight Pro Beach Volleyball League in 1997, in which 4 teams participated. It dissolved in 1997.
Major League Volleyball, a professional league, operated from 1987 to 1989.

Motorsport[edit]

Motorsport organizations allow men and women to compete on equal foot.

Eight women qualified to the Indianapolis 500 formula race: Janet Guthrie (9th in 1978), Lyn St. James (11th in 1992), Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick (3rd in 2009 y 4th in 2005), Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Milka Duno and Ana Beatriz Figueiredo. They also raced at American open wheel racing (USAC National Championship, Champ Car and IndyCar Series). The only one to win a race was Patrick at the 2008 Indy Japan 300; she scored several podiums and finished 5th in the 2009 IndyCar Series season, 6th in 2008 and 7th in 2007. Guthrie finished 5th in a USAC race in 1979. Fisher scored two podiums.

The most successful NASCAR female drivers were Sara Christian, who finished 5th in a NASCAR Cup Series race in 1949; Guthrie, who finished 6th in a 1977 round; and Patrick, who resulted 4th in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

In drag racing, Shirley Shahan was the first woman to win a NHRA national race, the 1966 Winternationals in the Top Stock class. Shirley Muldowney was the first woman drag racer to compete in Top Fuel, the main class of the National Hot Rod Association, and won the 1977, 1980 y 1982 championships. Angelle Sampey won three consecutive Pro Stock Motorcycle titles from 2000 to 2002.

Milka Duno scored three overall wins at the Rolex Sports Car Series.

Patrick has been receiving substantial mass media coverage since her first IndyCar season, starring advertising campaigns in the United States and earning among the top 10 sportswomen.

Australia[edit]

In Australia, the Australian Institute of Sport has started many programs to help women's golf.

Canada[edit]

Ice hockey[edit]

At the turn of the 20th century, the first organized women’s ice hockey leagues started in Canada, as did the first-ever attempt at launching a pro league in the 1990s. The Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) have a historic legacy, but the current incarnation of the League began operations in 2007. Over the decades, the League has had many names: In the late 90s and early 2000s, it was the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) . Many of the current stars were culled from that league after its demise in 2007. At the time, owners were losing money and unable to forge a cohesive plan for how to move the league forward .[21] The prospect of having no professional league for women left the world’s top players with nowhere to play. In the summer of 2007, a groundbreaking initiative launch a player-run league with a new vision. Along with fellow players Kathleen Kauth, Kim McCullough, Sami Jo Small, Jennifer Botterill, Lisa-Marie Breton and a group of keen business people, they formed the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL), following the example of the National Lacrosse League. The result was a non-profit organization that favoured a centralized league over the old ownership model. This new league would cover all basic travel, ice rental, uniforms and equipment costs for the league’s 6 teams across Eastern Canada. Until the 2010-11 season the players in the league had to pay over $ 1,000 each to play hockey.[22][23][24] While these female elite hockey players hope to make a living playing someday, everyone involved in the League, from players to staff, work “pro bono,” leading double lives as National Team athletes, journalists, policemens, fire brigades, school principals and teachers.[25][26]

Denmark[edit]

The Danish women's team handball league, Damehåndboldligaen, is all-pro and internationally considered the strongest and most well paid in the world. Leading clubs are GOG, Slagelse, Aalborg DH and Viborg HK.

The Danish women's football league, Elitedivisionen is semi-professional. Leading clubs are Fortuna Hjorring and HEI.

England[edit]

In England, the top competition of women's football, the FA Women's Premier League, is semi-professional. The major women's clubs competing are affiliates of male club counterparts, usually bearing the same names with the acronyms LFC or WFC, but they do not share the same large stadiums, instead renting smaller stadiums from lower-level clubs (no women's club actually owns their stadium). The competition is semi-professional, meaning that the players are paid above the old maximum for professionals but rely on part-time jobs or schooling outside the game. Full professionalism has been tried, mostly on the part of individual teams (Fulham L.F.C. was the first side to go full pro, but was downgraded later by the owners), but it will take years to develop a fully professionalised women's league in England. Backing by a male club does not necessarily equal success, and the level of success achieved by male clubs may be reversed in female counterparts (compare these local derbies: Aston Villa vs. Birmingham City; Bristol City vs. Bristol Rovers; Liverpool vs. Everton; and Sunderland vs. Newcastle United)

Similar semi-professionalism examples exist in women's rugby union and cricket. Common to most European sports, promotion and relegation is used for the leagues (which the WNBA and WPS do not have). The LET (Ladies European Tour)is Europe’s leading women’s professional golf tour and formed as the WPGA in 1978. Over the last 33 years, the tour has developed into a truly international organisation and in 2011 will operate 28 golf tournaments in 19 different countries worldwide. www.ladieseuropeantour.com

Motorsport[edit]

Five women competed in Formula One: Maria Teresa de Filippis (1958-1959), Lella Lombardi (1974-1976), Divina Galica (1976 and 1978), Desiré Wilson (1980) and Giovanna Amati (1992), totalling 29 entries and 15 starts. Lombardi had a best result of sixth at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, where she was awarded half a World Championship point.

The Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters has had four women drivers: Katherine Legge, Susie Stoddart, Rahel Frey and Vanina Ickx. Stoddart scored two 7th race finises and a 13th place in the standings in 2010. In the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft, Ellen Lohr scored a win.

In sports car racing, Desiré Wilson also won two races of the World Sportscar Championship, and Odette Siko resulted fourth overall at the 1932 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In rallying, Michèle Mouton got four wins and nine podiums at the World Rally Championship, resulting runner-up in 1982. Meanwhile, Jutta Kleinschmidt won the 2001 Dakar Rally.

In off-road motorcycling, Laia Sanz scored 12 women's trial world championships and three X Games endurocross gold medals.

Top earning sportswomen[edit]

According to Forbes Magazine, the top ten earning female athletes are:

Women's professional sports competitions[edit]

Cycling[edit]

Football (soccer)[edit]

Netball[edit]

Ice hockey[edit]

Softball[edit]

Golf[edit]

The Ladies European Tour is Europe’s leading women’s professional golf tour and formed as the WPGA in 1978. Over the last 33 years, the tour has developed into a truly international organisation and in 2011 will operate 28 golf tournaments in 19 different countries worldwide. www.ladieseuropeantour.com

Tennis[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://womensbasketballonline.com/wnba/rosters/salary.html
  2. ^ http://www.nba.com/blazers/news/Salary_Cap_101-147720-41.html
  3. ^ http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/wusa/2003-09-15-wusa-folds_x.htm
  4. ^ http://www.womensworldfootball.com/
  5. ^ http://soccernet.espn.go.com/columns/story?id=328319&root=wusa&cc=5739
  6. ^ http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=PRNI2&STORY=/www/story/09-04-2007/0004655869&EDATE=
  7. ^ Women's Professional Football About Page, womensprosoccer.com/about/about-wps .
  8. ^ . The 90's WBA played three full seasons with plans to play as a 12-team league in 1997, disbanded before 1997 season. Sources in History of women's professional basketball, Compiled by Robert Bradley. Contributors - Jack Black, and Dennis Slusher
  9. ^ The WBA wasa summer league formed in 1992, the WBA played a 15-game schedule and games were broadcast on Liberty Sports of Dallas. When FOX Sports purchased Liberty Sports and the WBA, they disbanded the league. Sources in History of women's professional Basketball, Compiled by Robert Bradley. Contributors - Jack Black, F. Travis Boley, Robert Bradley, Tom Goddard, John Guy, Steve Mau, Shawn Oliver, Mark Pollak, Pat Premo, and Dennis Slusher
  10. ^ http://www.lpga.com/content_1.aspx?pid=59
  11. ^ http://sportsmanagementdegree.org/2010/20-inspirational-female-athletes-who-won-in-a-mans-sport/
  12. ^ http://www.kathykusner.com/
  13. ^ http://www.kathykusner.com/
  14. ^ http://www.kathykusner.com/
  15. ^ http://www.kathykusner.com/
  16. ^ http://www.kathykusner.com/
  17. ^ http://www.profastpitch.com/about/
  18. ^ http://www.profastpitch.com/about/
  19. ^ http://www.wtt.com/page.aspx?article_id=1252
  20. ^ http://www.wtatennis.com/scontent/article/2951989/title/about-the-wta
  21. ^ Sharing the hockey dream, http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=92b1c96e-0afa-44d7-b8bc-1c48db475f63&sponsor= ,The Gazette (Montreal) December 16, 2006.
  22. ^ http://www.hour.ca/news/news.aspx?iIDArticle=20459
  23. ^ http://bleacherreport.com/articles/421458-possible-nhl-and-cwhl-partnership-in-the-works
  24. ^ NHL talks raise hopes of pro women's league, http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/article/875114--new-direction-for-women-s-hockey , The star.com October 13, 2010
  25. ^ Montreal hopes Clarkson Cup win promotes women's hockey league, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/montreal-hopes-clarkson-cup-win-promotes-womens-hockey-league/article1959168/?utm_medium=Feeds%3A+RSS%2FAtom&utm_source=Hockey&utm_content=1959168 , in Globe and Mail, March 27, 2011
  26. ^ CBCsports, http://www.cbc.ca/sports/blogs/cassiecampbell/2011/02/vancouvers-legacy-for-womens-hockey.html , February 9, 2011

External links[edit]