In my eyes, there is no difference between women’s and men’s sport. Whatever the sport, it portrays individuals working hard to achieve their own goals and dreams. Whether that is in football, netball, gymnastics or athletics, there is always a place for women in every sport, just as much as men. However, not everyone thinks like this, and unfortunately, there is far less coverage of women’s sport compared to men’s. This can be incredibly influential in making women/girls feel as though they don’t belong in the sporting world, but this is not how it should be!
Women, just as much as men, train hard and dedicate their lives to their sport, therefore, women’s sport deserves to receive the same amount of publicity as men’s sport, but it doesn’t. It isn’t only young boys that need to be inspired by watching other men playing sports on the tv or reading about them in the newspaper, girls also need to see women! Without exposure for women in sport, young girls don’t know the opportunities out there for them in the sporting world. They aren’t aware of how many women do actually pursue a sport competitively. All they see is the domination of men in sports, particularly rugby and football.
Research has shown that whilst women do account for 40% of all sports participation, only a shocking 4-10% of sports coverage is of women, and that’s on average in newspapers, on tv, and on the radio, etc. It is considerably higher in the UK than in other countries, such as Greece, where only 2% of sports coverage is of women, however the UK statistics are still astonishingly low! This shows that 90-96% of sports coverage is purely of men’s events! This statistic is improving, and companies such as The Telegraph have started publishing a women’s sport supplement, but it’s not happening quickly enough! Whilst there are so many factors to discuss about the effect of minimal female sports coverage, one of the more prevalent issues is the impact this has on young girls and women looking to pursue a sport.
We live in a world where sport is dominated by men, well what we see of it. Therefore, it is very easy for young girls and women to feel alienated if they wish to pursue a sporting career. If all that is seen in the newspaper and on the tv is male footballers or men playing darts, women are likely to feel as though there is no place for them in such events. This however, couldn’t be further from the truth and media coverage needs to reflect this.
In 2019, a study was conducted showing that 71% of people in the UK believe that having more women’s sport on the TV would have a positive effect on girls and women taking part in sports. This ultimately suggests that a monumental way to boost female participation in sport is to show them that other women are doing it too.
If the world is going to inspire the current and next generation of sportswomen, we need to show top athletes in action, whether they are male or female equally. If we don’t, how are women meant to see the things they could be capable of with hard work. This takes me to a prime example.
At this year’s British championships, the women’s 5,000m (the only distance event of the meet) wasn’t initially due to be televised. The broadcasting schedule was due to stop at 9pm, and the women’s 5,000m was due to start at 9:05pm. It is absurd that the only distance track race of the night, therefore the only opportunity for female distance runners to inspire other athletes who may be watching, wasn’t scheduled to be televised. After the issue around this was raised by plenty of people, it was put on the red button. Why is it that only AFTER receiving backlash, the event was then added to the TV schedule?! A key factor to women feeling encouraged to partake in a competitive sport, is if they see other determined women doing the same thing. I know there have been major developments in such areas, but there is still a very long way to go. When will women’s sport be taken as seriously as men’s and automatically receive the same publicity? (Without backlash having to occur to evoke change!)
Not only is it the level of coverage that is a problem, but also the focus of existing coverage. There was a recent athletics event where the commentators felt the need to address the body shape and size of some of the athletes, saying, “You can actually tell, just by looking at the way that they’re built, that they’re [laughs], the pacemakers. Much more muscle mass on our two pacemakers.”. This immediately suggests that in order to be fast you need to be small! Not a great advert to those young girls that were watching and feel this is how they need to look to be fast and successful runners. There is so much more to comment on, as evidenced by men’s sporting events where body image is extremely rarely commented on. This should be addressed immediately in order to support all bodies, of all genders, in all sports. This is a topic I could go on forever about, but for this blog, I’ll keep it short.
It starts at school.
As you progress through senior school, more and more girls drop out of sport, coming up with any excuse not to have to do sports day or run around the fields before PE, therefore, you feel this is what you should be doing. If you only run inside of school, not with an athletics club, and likewise with other sports, you aren’t aware that there are other girls pursuing sport, therefore you can feel alone and isolated.
We should be promoting girls in all sports and talking to children about pursuing their sporting dreams at school from a young age. Therefore, we need to show girls that women can and do partake in all sports. Even if they don’t see it on TV or in the newspaper now, they will hopefully as a process of normality in the future. By making women’s sport more normalised and showing that there is a need and demand to cover it, ideally this will increase the media coverage of female sports. This will also help show the depth of talent of female athletes, and show young girls that no matter how you look, with dedication, you too can be as successful as those sportswomen on TV.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!