MELBOURNE, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Australia's top sports federations have pledged to achieve gender equality in pay for athletes and administrators as part of a blueprint issued by a local advocacy group.
The CEOs of Cricket Australia, the National Rugby League and Football Federation Australia, have signed up to the "Pathway to Pay Equality" report by the Male Champions of Change Institute (MCC), which details a milestone-based approach to achieving pay equity between male and female athletes.
Other signatories include Golf Australia, Swimming Australia and Tennis Australia, which organises the Australian Open Grand Slam.
"Many of our elite women athletes are among the most successful on the world stage," Kate Palmer, CEO of the federal government's sports funding agency Sport Australia, said in a media release from the MCC on Monday.
"We are a sports-loving nation, we are championing a system-wide reset in the way we support, pay and reward our female athletes. The benefits to our economy, our community and our athletes will be exponential."
Having largely neglected women's sport for decades, a number of Australia's major federations have made significant investments in recent years, establishing professional leagues in cricket, soccer and Australian Rules football.
The initiatives have opened up pathways to more full-time careers in women's sport, while hiking salaries from a low base.
But most female athletes still earn a fraction of their male counterparts.
Cricket Australia gave contracted women the same base hourly pay rate as men in the five-year collective bargaining agreement struck in 2017, but women play far less cricket.
The governing body estimated that contracted female cricketers would earn a minimum annual retainer of A$87,609 ($62,600) during the final year of the pay deal in 2021/22, while men would earn over A$313,000.
Minimum annual player contracts in the W-League, Australia's top women's soccer competition, were A$12,287, less than a fifth of the minimum salaries enjoyed by players in the men's A-League (A$64,113).
Tennis Australia offers equal prize-money at the Australian Open in keeping with the other three Grand Slams.
The MCC said it had identified a 27 percent overall gender pay gap in corporate and administration roles in Australian sport, which was based on data provided to the Australian government's Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).
That compared to the national average gender pay gap of 21.3 percent across all industries.
($1 = 1.3988 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford )
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