Gordon Campbell on the FIFA women’s football, and teaching kids about finance

FIFA image

Apparently, Labour and National are agreed on the desirability of teaching financial literacy to kids in the classroom. While it’s hard to argue on principle against students learning more about the financial system, the idea that this can be separated entirely from market ideology seems a little naive – and the aside on RNZ this morning from Education Minister Jan Tinetti that business may be involved in developing the content does nothing to allay concerns about the social engineering potential of this process.

If money is power and power dictates access to money then it’s hard to see how this subject can be divorced from wider issueslike, for example, the social morality of income inequality. The basics can’t be separated entirely from their social context, and nor should they claim to be.

Yes, it would be good if kids knew more about how to save and – for the fortunate few how to invest, wisely. However, in schools in many parts of the country, the very thought that all families would have savings and spare funds available for their kids to invest is a pipe dream. In practice, the luckier kids may be learning less about banking, and more about how to access the bank of Mum and Dad. The fact that Labour seems more willing to talk about teaching kids how to invest than it is to talk about giving their beneficiary parents access to Working For Families is, IMO, quite the wrong set of priorities for a centre-left government.

Kids learn better about everything when they’re not hungry, and when their family life is stable. Aiming to teach some kids how to (a) save and invest in housing (b) take out a mortgage at a sustainable rate of interest, or (c) invest shrewdly in the share market would for many of this nation’s children in 2023, seem like science fiction.

IMO, financial information could better be incorporated within the civics lessons that have previously been talked about as a prerequisite for lowering the voting age to 16. As so far described, the teaching of financial literacy sounds like a very nice set of skills for middle-class kids to have. Yet the underlying premise – that people only need to be taught how to budget their way out of poverty smacks of victim blaming. It implies that the only reason an inadequate level of income support is inadequate is that the people struggling to get by haven’t budgeted wisely and thriftily.

Good grief. Most families that have learned the hard way how to subsist on a pittance could tell their school teachers and political leaders a thing or two about budgeting skills. Ultimately, the main people who would benefit from such courses are the relatively affluent kids who need to learn how to restrain their pursuits of immediate gratification. That’s not a luxury that’s open to a whole lot of young New Zealanders.

Kicking Against the Pricks

Now that the dust has settled, all praise to Spain, for their skilful, attacking style of play….and forma triumph achieved despite the off-field actions of (a) their coach and (b) the medieval football authorities that govern the sport in Spain.. As has been well publicised, 15 of the country’s top women players wrote a letter to Spain’s football authorities last year detailing the problems they were having while playing under coach Jorge Vilda.

Instead of addressing those concerns, Spain’s football administrators high-handedly demanded that the players must apologise to Vilda as a pre-condition for playing again for Spain. Only five of the rebels agreed to do so. Vilda, and the football authorities can now claim that – however unintentionally – the current team has vindicated their arrogant stance.

Unwittingly, that’s arguably one reason why it is so oddly fitting that Spain has won this World Cup. Amid the jubilation, the victory of this particular team is a sobering reminder of just how much still needs to be done to ensure that women’s sport does not forever remain at the mercy of what The Guardian sports writer Jonathan Liew yesterday called the “mediocre men” who control the great game. Liew was talking about Vilda and FIFA boss Gianni Infantino:

….Jorge Vilda – Cruella de Vilda, as he has been dubbed online – is openly disdained by most of his players, and even in their victory huddle was left dancing listlessly on his own, like the only sober guy at a house party… [After the game] Infantino leaned forward and clutched Vilda in a warm embrace. This is a game for extraordinary women, a stage for extraordinary women, a tournament for extraordinary women. But never forget that it is a world still run by mediocre men.

Only a couple of days before, Infantino had placed the onus for achieving equal pay – for male and female players squarely on women, and not on his own fiefdom at FIFA.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has been widely criticised for saying women footballers must “pick the right battles” in the fight for equal pay in the World Cup. The man who holds the most powerful position in world football said women “have the power to convince us men what we have to do” – appearing to place the responsibility for action at their feet.

Currently, the prize pools for top female players is $US110 million, while the male players last year shared a prize pool almost exactly four times as large, at $US440 million. You would think that after the human rights debacle of the men’s World Cup in Qatar… and given that the FIFA Women’s World Cup has restored the beauty and integrity of the game – that FIFA would recognise this. fact and be grateful. Evidently not.

Here at home, it is also worth keeping in mind how long the road to equality still is. In its recent bi-annual report on sports media coverage and gender issues Sports NZ noted this:

…Women’s sport accounts for 15% of sports coverage….There is also improvement over time, with a 2011 study in New Zealand finding that gender balance then sat at 11%.”There has been positive change, but 15% highlights the journey we have ahead to achieve true equity,” says Sport NZ CEO Raelene Castle.

No doubt, the coverage of the NZ women’s team efforts in rugby last year and in football this year ( plus the wider popularity of the recent FIFA women’s football tournament – will have produced more favourable trendlines by this time next year. Yet as Raelene Castle indicates, there is a very long way to go. As of 2021, the men’s game accounted for 91% of the media coverage given to football.

Interestingly, the two state broadcasters (RNZ and TVNZ) were at the bottom of the table for coverage of women’s sport. As the Sports NZ report goes on to note:

The picture is most concerning when you look at the five sports that receive the most media coverage in Aotearoa: rugby, cricket, football, rugby league and basketball. These account for nearly three-quarters of all sports coverage but within these sports there is an average of only 6.6% coverage of women’s sport. This is where the media are putting most of their resources.

Another feature of the report:

Only five sports have more female coverage than male coverage: netball, hockey, canoe sprint, snow sports and gymnastics. While netball is the women’s sport that receives most media coverage – it is the seventh most covered sport overall netball still accounted for only 4.3% of all sports coverage in 2021, while rugby, the nation’s number one sport, accounted for 32.3%. The report found that the overt sexualisation of female athletes in media imagery is not a major issue, but this related point sounds familiar:Female [athletes] are three-times more likely to have their appearance commented on than males.”

Across the Tasman, the Albanese government has recognised the extent of Matildas fever, and has committed to putting an extra $A200 million into women’s sport. What are the similar election bids here from Labour and National, in order to ensure the current momentum behind women’s sport is not lost?