Row as female Olympic athletes fly in cheap seats

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Sports governing bodies from Japan and Australia are under fire after male Olympic athletes flew business class to the London Games, while the women sat in the cheap seats.

Japan’s world champion women’s football team took exception to flying economy while their male counterparts sat in business class on a flight to Europe.

The Japan Football Association said the men flew in business because they are professionals.

The women’s team was assigned seats in economy for the 13-hour flight to Paris while the nation’s under-23 men’s team was up front on the same flight.

“It should have been the other way around,” 2011 Fifa women’s world player of the year, Homare Sawa, said in Paris. “Even just in terms of age we are senior.”

Basketball Australia says it will review its travel policy for national teams after complaints the men flew business class to the Olympics while most of the women sat in economy.

The women’s team is by far the most successful of the two, having won silver medals at the last three Olympics. The men, however, have never won an Olympic medal.

The sport’s national governing body said it would “review our Olympic travel policy with the goal of ensuring there is equity between travel arrangements for the men’s and women’s teams attending future Olympics.”

One player, though, was not in economy US star Lauren Jackson was in first class because she is an “ambassador” with the airline involved. And another US player, Liz Cambage, paid to upgrade herself.

In a statement, Basketball Australia acting chief executive Scott Derwin said the “policy around budgets for each national team gives the leadership group of those teams some discretion over how their funds are spent.

“But the simple fact is when a policy results in gender inequality, it’s very clearly not the right policy,” he said.

Incoming Australian Basketball Association chief executive Kristina Keneally, who will start in her new role on August 4 said she welcomed the travel policy review.

“In this day and age, there’s just no excuse for men’s and women’s sporting teams to be treated differently when they both compete at the same world-class level,” Ms Keneally said. “The disparity is even more glaring when you consider that our women’s basketball team is one of the best in the world.”