Aussies criticised for keeping men and women a class apart


Australia's basketball governing body will review its travel policy after being criticised for flying its men's team to the London Olympics in business class while putting the women's team in economy class.

In Japan, soccer officials brushed off accusations that they too had been guilty of sex discrimination after segregating the country's Olympic football teams for a long-haul flight.

In Australia, the different travel plans were attacked by media and politicians called for the teams to receive equal treatment. But Basketball Australia's acting chief executive Scott Derwin defended the decision, saying that it was the women's team that chose to fly economy.

"The girls themselves were given the option in which class they wanted to travel," he said. "They were given a budget which includes travel, daily per diems and accommodation and told to work within that budget.

"Off the top of my head I can't recall what had been set aside in the overall budget for both squads. But from our point of view the girls were fairly treated and continue to be fairly treated."

Australia's women's basketball team have won silver at the past three Olympics, while their male counterparts have never won medal.

The criticism came in the wake of a controversy over travel arrangements for Japan's footballers, whose women, who are world champions, also flew in more cramped conditions than the less successful men's team.

"The JFA [Japanese Football Association] perpetuated the sexist divide that has existed in the world of soccer for a long time," the Nikkan Sports daily newspaper said.

Japan's men flew business, while the women, whose astonishing World Cup win last year lifted the spirits of a nation recovering from the deadly tsunami, sat in premium economy class on the same 12-hour flight to Paris.

The JFA told Reuters it was simply a question of professional status and practicality.

"Under the JOC [Japanese Olympic Committee] they would all fly economy but we upgraded them," said media officer Kazutake Nishizawa, who is with the players at the Olympics.

"With the men's professional clubs in Europe and the J-League, it's stipulated that they must fly business. The women's game doesn't have those conditions yet. Also, body size does come into the equation."

The current Ffia women's World Player of the Year, Homare Sawa, said "it should have been the other way around" for their Olympic flight.

"Even just in terms of age, we are senior," she joked.

Asked about a comment attributed to JFA president Kuniya Daini saying he would consider flying the women's team back by business if they win Olympic gold, Nishizawa was tight-lipped.

"[National carrier] JAL sponsors us so we would have to check for available seats in any case, and hope we can upgrade some people. Not everyone can fly business class," he said.