WACA CEO Christina Matthews has been taking a bat to sexism in cricket since she was a teenager.
An advocate for inclusiveness, Christina is Australia’s most capped female test cricket player and has been running the WACA since 2012.
She has been actively helping to transform the previously male-dominated sport since she first joined her cricket club committee as a 14-year-old.
As well as encouraging the inclusion of women in the game, Christina says the WACA has paid attention to maintaining cricket’s appeal to older people, spending time over the past couple of years working with the veterans cricket community which caters for everyone from over 40s to over 70s.
“I think we might even have an over 80s team,” Christina says.
“It’s about involving anyone who wants to be part of the game and to ensure that you have an opportunity for them to play the game or use the facilities so anybody of any age can feel they can come down and use the facilities at the soon to be redeveloped WACA ground, whether that’s the café, the playground, or the sports medicine centre.
“A lot of people say ‘you’ve been a great advocate for women’ which I’m very proud of, but equally I’ve been a very big advocate for men in our game because you can’t just assume that everything’s rosy for them either.”
Considerable work has been done to make sure both men and women have the greatest opportunity and the best facilities the WACA can provide them.
“One of the great innovations in cricket has been Twenty 20 and the Big Bash League (BBL) and WBBL. What we’ve found when BBL started 10 years ago, was our older members were saying ‘this is not real cricket, blah, blah, blah’, but what they eventually found was that it was a unique way for them to connect with their grandchildren, because for the kids T20 is the way to go.
“All of a sudden you have this game that the older people had always loved and enjoyed, and they could use T20 to introduce their kids to it.”
Christina’s own love for the sport started as a youngster playing street cricket.
“I was fortunate that the area I was living in Melbourne had a women’s team that played in the local area and my mum signed me up for it.”
Even then, as a 12-year-old, Christina recognised there was a gender imbalance in the game.
“I don’t think I was completely aware of that, but you knew there was a difference because at school, girls weren’t allowed near the nets and our club team was a secondary user of the ground. We weren’t first priority.”
Her desire to do something about that imbalance started when she joined her club committee at the age of 14.
Christina believes the public want more parity between men and women, but parity in terms of pay will be a natural evolution and will depend on how hard people fight for it.
The game itself though has come on in leaps and bounds.
“If I look at the 10 years I’ve been in Perth I can see the changes in attitude. It’s been really noticeable in the last three years, so you just have to make sure it doesn’t go backwards.”
Women’s Big Bash League being shown on television shows how far the game has come.
“Women have been playing the game since 1880 and have been playing interstate and international competition since the 1930s.
“What the WBBL brought was consistent coverage of women playing the game on television which creates a normality for people, so it’s been absolutely integral to success.”
Eliminating male-centric cricketing terms such as batsman and 12th man are still in Christina’s sights, but she says it will be a long haul to completely eradicate them.
“There’ll always be very strong traditionalists who boo-hoo the fact that using man or men in language is gender based and as a consequence of that you get people who are in a position to make those decisions who are worried about the feedback that they might get.
“I see it happening more organically than it once was, but the big thing will be changing the gender-oriented terms embedded in the laws of cricket. Getting change at that level will make a difference.”
The redevelopment of the WACA Ground, the construction of Optus Stadium and the increasing appeal of all forms of the game, promise a healthy future for cricket in WA says Christina.
“As an organisation we have responsibility for cricket from little tackers through to veterans, as well as elite versus recreational players, but we also have an important role to play in terms of social impact.
“I think the WACA is well placed to deliver what it should be delivering from a cricket point of view, but also to reflect and lead society in terms of values, behaviours and be a great example of diversity and inclusion.”