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.
Professional sports leagues give athletes the training and experience necessary for international competition and are a prime pool from which Women's National Team players are recruited. The WNBA, for instance, enjoys financial backing via the NBA and supplies a stream of professional players to the USA Basketball WNT
History of Women's Professional Sports
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 Billy 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."
Women's professional sports organizations
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 2006, 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
The NBA cap was over 60 times higher, at $43.87 million
became the first American women's pro soccer league in 2001, but lasted only briefly because of financial sponsorship. Fans enjoyed women's pro soccer for three seasons before executives announced
suspension of the league, in spite of the fact that the US Soccer WNT
one of the world's top teams. Absence of a Women's professional football (soccer)
league in the United States now makes it difficult for the Soccer WNT to find new players who are ready for international competition
A 2004 effort to revive the WUSA
was launched. On September 4
, a new North American women's professional soccer league, tentatively named Women's Soccer LLC, was announced.
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
, 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 WUSA do not have).
The Danish women's team handball
, is all-pro and internationally considered the strongest and most well paid in the world. Leading clubs are GOG
, Aalborg DH
and Viborg HK
The Danish women's soccer league, Elitedivisionen is semi-professional. Leading clubs are Fortuna Hjorring and HEI.
In Australia, the Australian Institute of Sport
has started many programs to help women's golf.
Women's professional sports competitions