Dutch hockey’s long term sponsor, ABN Amro, has launched a campaign to address inequality in the sport across pay salaries, coaching and the boardroom. However, this is no ordinary initiative. The banking giant has a premise for the multitude of clubs it supports: pledge equality by 2025 and your sponsorship will be renewed.

Last week, ABN Amro, which supports around 50 clubs and several Dutch Premier Division teams, launched its ‘Time to catch up’ campaign as it bids for equal representation on and off the pitch in under five years time.

“Fair play is of paramount importance,” said the bank, which also successfully lobbied for the EHL to become gender balanced with equal prize money. “Yet, looking at the position of men and women, it is anything but ‘fair’. Women in hockey don’t receive the same opportunities as men do.”

In figures released by ABN Amro:

Male players earn five to ten times more than women
70 per cent of coaches in all teams are male
80 per cent of hockey club presidents are male
80 per cent of sponsorship funds is spent on men

According to ABN Amro, the campaign offers sessions for board members of clubs focusing on benefits they may not be aware of. “For women, there are several inspiring workshops. How do you put your dreams into action?” it said. “How do you hold your ground during salary or position negotiations? How can you become more aware of what your body needs? And how can you present yourself more powerfully through personal branding? We are campaigning at major tournaments to raise awareness among players.”

In a poll run by hockey.nl this week, around 60 per cent of voters said that it wouldn’t be realistic that clubs would comply with the principle by 2025.

Sponsor has called on equal pay for men and women PIC: World Sport Pics

Diederik Chevalier, the HC Rotterdam chairman, said that some clubs may find it difficult to support given disparity with team success. “With us, the first women’s team plays one class [division] lower, then you compare apples with pears,” he told Dutch newspaper Het Parool. “But take a club like Bloemendaal, where the men are invariably champion candidates and the women are not, then you have to deal with different budgets.”

Alex Danson highlighted the news on social media last week and said that English hockey should look to follow suit. Although Dutch and English club hockey is vastly different in terms of finance and set up, it is certainly possible to address the balance of inequality.

The club administrators The Hockey Paper spoke to believe that male representation holds sway in hockey across pay and coaching positions, while it is more difficult to get a handle on pay with salaries usually sorted via accomodation or other means. Still, there’s no question that there is gender inequality here.

Danson told The Daily Telegraph: “I believe following a similar step that is being made by ABN Amro in the Dutch league to help equalise salaries across male and female club players, this is something that needs to be followed by clubs in our Premier Divisions.

“We are one of the most equitable sports in the UK in terms of coverage, participation, and UK Sport/National Lottery funding at GB and England level, but I don’t believe this translates to our top level club hockey.

“I know some clubs are under huge financial pressures at the moment, but what message are we sending to our female players if we don’t believe they are of equal value to their male counterparts?”

Meanwhile the bank also said it would add equal opportunities for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and athletes with disabilities to its campaign at a later date.