After taking Israel's sports ministry to the Supreme Court over gender-based state funding of sports teams, the state is now to adjust the budget accordingly for 2019, providing vital funding for women’s football.
A movement involving female football players has won its battle for equal state funding of male and female sports teams in Israel, at least for 2019.
While most of the income in the men's game comes from sponsorship deals and TV rights, the new allocation of state funds for the women's game would result in the Israeli Women's Premier League being able to commence despite previous doubts over the lack of funding. The team's budgets are expected to rise by more than 100 percent.
Despite the Israeli state's initial refusal to adjust the gender-based parameters in the sports ministry's funding system, the state attorney's office has now told the Supreme Court that adjustments will be made so that both male and female teams will be funded under the same considerations in the budgetary year of 2019. The state also promised to review the parameters permanently.
Oshrat Eni, a defender at Israeli champions Asa Tel Aviv and one of those behind the movement, tells DW that the sports ministry's decision is a "relief," and that the previous situation posed a real threat to the existence of women's football in Israel.
"90 percent of Israeli women's football is supported by public funds. It's a life saver, at least for this season," Eni says.
Criticism over reallocation of funds
Every women's team will receive between 150,000 (39,000 euros) and 200,000 (52,000 euros) shekels as a result of the decision.
However, according to reports in Israel, the Israeli sports ministry has decided not to add any extra funds to its existing budget, but rather reallocate existing funds. Among those facing budgetary cutbacks are women's teams in others sports, such as basketball and volleyball, that had already taken the state's funding into account before the beginning of the 2019/20 season.
"There's a need to change the culture when it comes to women's sports in general. I represent women's football, but socially, I don't think other sports should be hurt. It's public money, it should be split equally between men and women," Eni tells DW.
Women's World Cup as inspiration
The movement for securing equal parameters for state funding started after the 2019 Women's World Cup. A group of female footballers, led by Eni, had demanded more investment in women's football from the Israeli Sports Ministry. The group, 'Female Football Players Make a Change', said it intends to take the state to the Supreme Court should their demands for equal funding not be answered. Many of Israel's male football players and teams have voice their support of the campaign.
"As of today, women's football in Israel suffers from a massive lack of funding, because the Israeli sports ministry keeps coming up with excuses. We, the players, have decided to put an end to it," the group said in a statement back in July.
As for the future, Eni says there's still a long way to go for women's sports in Israel. "I hope the Court's final decision will give women the equal opportunity to take part in sports," she concludes.