INTERVIEW. Parity, sexual violence, health crisis … Minister Roxana Maracineanu takes stock of the challenges of women’s sport

As Minister, did you expect that there would still be so much work on the issue of women’s sport?
Roxana Maracineanu:
“I am rather delighted that it falls on me, because I was already involved in the associative environment before being minister. That’s really what I started with after my swimming career. And I think that if I was appointed to this position by Édouard Philippe in 2018, it is also because I explained to him all the potential for improvements that I saw in this area. I am therefore delighted that he entrusted me with this mission on this basis. I therefore carry out my mission with ambition, confidence and motivation, because I know that there is a whole field of development for the federations in this area. Like me, they know that they must develop this field, especially in a context of a drop in the number of licensees and the financial difficulties they are going through. ”

When you were a high-level athlete *, did you ask so many questions about the challenges of women’s sport, its development, its perception?
“Yes, this is an old fight. Moreover, I was able to talk to former ministers and I know that it was a cause to which they would have liked to dedicate themselves even more. However, at the time, they were mobilized on other priorities. For example, Marie-George Buffet worked a lot on the prevention of doping, and alerted to the fact that it was necessary to ensure the health of athletes, vis-à-vis the search for performance. Valérie Fourneyron has done a lot of work on health sport. Today, I think the time has come to talk about this equality between men and women, this parity, this complete and total diversity. It is also a very strong commitment from the President of the Republic. ”

As a high performance athlete, how did you feel about the eyes of your male counterparts?
“I had the chance to evolve in a sport where diversity was not a problem. We were treated men and women fairly, in terms of bonuses, salaries, both in training and in competition. And in the organization of these, the boys were not put forward any more than the girls. I didn’t feel any difference. Moreover, in swimming, it was rather the girls who received the largest media share, thanks to their results, whether it was during my time or even afterwards, with Laure Manaudou who made swimming talk like no one else. other before her. On the other hand, I noticed a difference after my career, by observing the functioning of other sports.

Laure Manaudou poses on the podium after winning the silver medal in the women’s 800m freestyle at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.


In addition, I felt a difficulty on the feminization of the management, the coaches, the adults who surround the athletes, where the women are too few. We are already working on this axis, as on the renewal of bodies, and the notion of commitment of these athletes once their careers have ended in associative and federal life, sports professions in general. Because when you are an athlete and you see that the coaches are only men, that the volunteers are only men, you tell yourself that once your career is over, there will be no room for you. We want there to be prospects. ”

The year 2020 was marked by an unprecedented health crisis. The world of sport has been heavily affected and women’s sport in particular. How would you assess this crisis and its impact on women’s sport?
“Generally speaking, professional sport is suffering. And women’s sport has been particularly affected by this crisis, even though its economic model was already fragile. This is why major aid systems have been put in place, in which we have obviously included women’s sport. Where the big male clubs have reached the maximum ceiling of public aid (capped at € 800,000) since the start of the crisis, women’s clubs can benefit from the latest aid put in place better than men. I am thinking in particular of exemptions from employer contributions on salaries which can represent up to 40% of savings on the payroll. ”

Do you plan to put in place new measures in the coming weeks and months in favor of women’s sport?
“There will be compensation for ticket office losses for all clubs that were unable to accommodate spectators due to the closed door. 107 million euros are devoted to it and women’s sport will not be forgotten, even if the share of ticketing in these clubs is less important than for men. ”

Minister Roxana Maracineanu (center) and former swimmer Alain Bernard (left) at the launch of the national campaign
Minister Roxana Maracineanu (center) and former swimmer Alain Bernard (left) during the launch of the national campaign “#Vigilance Drowning”, on June 20, 2019, at the Butte aux Cailles swimming pool, in the 13th arrondissement from Paris.

© Thomas SAMSON / AFP

The crisis has exposed inequalities in sport. With less than four years before the Olympic Games in Paris, isn’t this an opportunity to develop women’s sport more quickly and more strongly?
“We are developing it through all of our public policies. First, there is the law passed by our parliamentarians in the course of the first quarter of 2021, which relates to representation in sports bodies. We know that gender equality is the great cause of the five-year term, and for us, it is a real issue to have more women in the executive of the federations. It is a question of justice and equal opportunities, but also of the renewal of the economic model of associations and clubs.

Indeed, with more women at the head of associations and federations, we will be able to have new offers aimed at the female public, more adapted to demand and needs. That is why we are encouraging women to come forward during this election period. Today, we have 16 presidents among the 113 presidents of federations. We are still very far from parity. ”

What about sports practice?
“We are also working on the sports practice of girls and women, with fundamental knowledge that we want to teach from an early age. We want all young girls to have access to sport, whatever their culture, place of residence or social background. Offering two fundamentals such as knowing how to ride and knowing how to swim from the age of four also means working on equal opportunities. We know that in sports sometimes, girls stay on the stands and do not necessarily want to put on a swimsuit or sportswear to practice PE at school.

If we offer these fundamentals from four years old, there will be fewer differences on these criteria. We also want to encourage the continuity of sports practice for women at specific times in their lives, such as during pregnancy. The Ministry of Sports has published a specific guide that encourages and supports the practice of physical activity adapted to the period of motherhood, before and after birth. ”

During this coronavirus crisis, male and female athletes were not necessarily in the same boat. In rugby, for example, Top 14 players have professional status and were able to resume training and competitions long before their female Elite 1 counterparts, who have amateur status. Isn’t this crisis an opportunity to change the status of players?
“I plead for this. I fully agree with you in this desire to structure and professionalize even more. This is also a speech that I gave to the federations and leagues so that these bodies establish contracts in due form to ensure that they devote themselves fully to their sporting practice as is the case. case for men, when they are professional. And even at a lower level, at the level of professional or semi-professional clubs, it is necessary to insist with the clubs so that they transform the current expenses of their players, that they consider them as professionals, with a real contract and a status which allows them to contribute, to have pension rights. Real work is being undertaken by the team sports federations but also by the players’ unions. ”

In his book
In her book “Un si long silence”, published on January 30, 2020, the former skater Sarah Abitbol accused her former trainer Gilles Beyer of sexual violence.

The year 2020 was also marked by numerous cases of sexual violence in sport. How did you experience the revelations on these?
“It’s a subject that is close to my heart. It is essential for me to be able to affirm with the federations that we have zero tolerance for violence in sport, whether it is sexual or verbal violence, or acts of harassment or discrimination. I was happy that the victims were able to express themselves, that we could finally listen to them, whether it was the federations, the Ministry of Sports, or the justice system since many of our administrative inquiries were brought to the attention of the prosecution. .

To date, more than 370 cases are handled by my department. Among them, there are old files, but also current ones. For the most part, these are cases of sexual violence, some of which have been seized by justice. I am reassured that everyone is going in the same direction, whether it is the ministry which is not afraid to tackle this issue, or the federations which are aware of the gravity of the facts.

In sport, we have a head start on this subject, and a common commitment with the administration, the justice system, the federal world, and the communities that follow us as well. We are convinced of one thing, that the club must remain what it is: a place of development, of education for our children, and that this kind of practice cannot tarnish the true nature of sport. We want to eradicate this phenomenon and ensure that convicted people can never find themselves in sports associations again. ”

* Roxana Maracineanu was world (1998), European (1999) and vice-Olympic (2000) swimming champion.

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