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Opals star joins calls for equality

AUSTRALIAN Opals veteran Kristi Harrower says Basketball Australia rejected the team's request to be given six business class seats to travel to the 2008 Olympics, despite the entire men's side flying business class.

As debate rages after Canberra Capitals' skipper Jess Bibby's claims of bias towards the NBL last week, Harrower said inequality over travel arrangements has been a burning issue for female players for some time.

Basketball Australia was heavily criticised last year when Fairfax Media revealed the Opals, medallists at the last five Olympics, flew economy to London while the Boomers flew business class.

Bendigo Spirit point guard Harrower has been an Opals regular for 21 years, and completed a four-year stint as WNBL general manager last season.

''I know one day we asked BA if we could have six of the men's business class flights and it was still no,'' Harrower told The Canberra Times on Saturday. ''We got told if we wanted to upgrade ourselves to premium or business class, we'd actually have to put money towards it.

''The men started to get on Twitter when it all started to get out before the [2012] Olympics. We told them we're not having a go at you guys. We feel it's a bit of discrimination, the Opals have been in the top two or three in the world for a long time now and things haven't changed.''


Harrower insinuated the Opals' sustained success may be hurting their quest for more funding.

''We're the ones who keep bringing in the medals. There's a lot of pressure on the Opals to succeed because if we don't, then what does happen with the funding money from the government?

''Sometimes I feel BA won't make the changes because they know we will play for our country, because we love to do it. It's not sexism, it's about discrimination more than anything.''

Harrower used Twitter on Saturday to vent frustrations after world governing body FIBA posted a column dismissing the players' claims as ''once again a case of the girl who cried wolf''.

Harrower said, ''OK I have had enough. It was raised how much was spent on the WNBL last year, 787k (compared to $3.447million for NBL). Last yr there were 10 teams. Each team has to pay 70k to be in the league, so does that mean BA spent 87k on the WNBL?''

Harrower said finding a naming rights sponsor for the WNBL is the biggest issue which needs to be rectified. ''The Defence Force was the last time we had a naming rights sponsor, and they stopped sponsoring us about four years ago,'' Harrower said.

''I've been to the GM in the WNBL, you go to meetings and they keep talking about the same things, and things don't change.

''The main thing is getting a naming rights sponsor for the league, because then we may not have to pay as much in the levy.

''For clubs that struggle, if you can get $15-20,000 taken off your levy, that's one player [wage].''

Harrower said Basketball Australia should consider a think tank with Netball Australia, whose flagship competition, the ANZ Championship, has gone from strength to strength since it was founded in 2008.

''Back in the 90s we used to kill the netball but now it's the opposite, they kill us with everything they do with sponsorship, the way they promote their game on TV, the way they have their game days set up, everything.

''We've got to follow their footsteps. If it means we have to go and talk to them to find out how they got there, then do it. I know the netballers get good money when they go out to do a promotion, when they have a baby they get child-care. I'm actually jealous we can't have those sort of things.

''Someone said to me the reason why netball is successful is because they get the support from the top. That person was involved in basketball before and she's now in netball.''