Discrimination in sport is sadly something we are all too familiar with. This can take many guises and is based on nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc. One of the most high-profile campaigns to rid soccer of one such form of discrimination is FIFA's "No to Racism". Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and others ask football supporters to say "no" to this form of discrimination.
Another prominent aspect of discrimination in sport is based on gender and comes in the form of pay differentials. Scraton and Flintoff (2002) provide an excellent overview of the theory of gender in sport, and its evolution from Victorian Britain to the millennium. Today this battle is being fought by the United States women's soccer team. The national side have filed a complaint with the US Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the basis that their pay is far below their less successful male counterparts. The story is covered in more detail here, here and here.
While the issues cited above are primarily thought of as 'negative' discrimination, the issue of affirmative action or positive discrimination in sport arose last week. This is much less prevalent but can be seen by the decision of France Galop to introduce a 2kg (4.4lbs) weight allowance to all female riders in the vast majority of French horse races. Jean-Pierre Colombu, vice president of France Galop, has described the move as "a real opportunity" for female jockeys.
Such allowances are not unheard of in racing. For example, apprentice jockeys receive weight allowances based on the number of winners they have had. Gender is not the criteria however. Success is. Gender discrimination does exist in the sport, but for the horses, with mares receiving a weight allowance. Superb mare Annie Power exploited this to maximum effect last March when she became the first mare since Flakey Dove in 1994 to win the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle.
While some have welcomed the move, the majority of those that have voiced opinions are not impressed. Champion Apprentice jockey Josephine Gordon has said "I think an allowance would give a lot more females more opportunities to get rides at lower weights, but personally, I find it a bit offensive". Leading jockey Adam Kirby has described the move as ridiculous and suggests such a move would be "too much" of an advantage, as race riding is "not about strength [but] positioning, [and] rhythm." Others have suggested, female jockeys should accept the allowance and use it to their advantage.
One need only watch the likes of Hayley Turner (previously), Josophine Gordon, Nina Carberry, Katie Walsh, Rachael Blackmore, Lizze Kelly (the list goes one), to realise they need no such advantage. More importantly, they want no such advantage. If sport is to be rid of discrimination, positive or negative, everyone must be treated the same, regardless of gender, nationality, ethnicity, etc.