How refreshing has it been to see women’s sport dominating the headlines this week?
From the announcement of Barclays as the first Women’s Super League (WSL) title sponsor to an ODI series whitewash for England in Sri Lanka, a new government drive to encourage more women to take up sport and a stunning Six Nations success for the Red Roses, the list has been seemingly endless.
While this may feel like a fleeting novelty now, such coverage could become the norm before long thanks to the brand new Telegraph Women’s Sport (TWS) campaign.
The 52 first learned about this initiative back in January after seeing job adverts posted looking for writers and an editor and immediately we felt very excited.
After all, this blog was created with the same intention – helping increase the coverage of women’s sport in the public domain.
But we came from a standing start, with pretty no resources other than passion – and while we are incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved and are so grateful to everyone who has supported us – there is only so much change we can elicit at this moment in time.
So to see a major British newspaper with a huge following taking this unprecedented step is fantastic.
It’s what women’s sport needed too.
While the structure, success and desire to see our fantastic individuals and teams continues to grow rapidly, the media coverage has barely increased at all.
As discussed in our piece on the #SeeSportyBeSporty campaign, the statistics surrounding the presence of female athletes in national newspapers is still alarmingly alarmingly small.
Their own independent research showed that just 2.9% of athletes pictured in sporting action between June 2017 and June 2018 were women, while back in 2015 Women in Sport found that just 7% of all sport media coverage in the UK focused on women, with the number dropping to 2% for national newspapers.
Hopefully, thanks to this brand new initiative, this will no longer be the case.
— Telegraph Women’s Sport (@WomensSport) March 18, 2019
This isn’t the first step taken by The Telegraph to reducing this inequality either.
Last October they appointed the first dedicated women’s football reporter in Katie Whyatt, who has done an awesome job keeping us up-to-date with the goings on from the Lionesses and across the domestic leagues.
She also took investigative journalism to a new level by taking part in a training session with Championship side Crystal Palace and produced a brilliant piece which you can read here.
With the continued success of the national team and the development of the club game, this move was always going to take off quickly but when it comes to most other sports – particularly Olympic events – the following is still a long way behind.
Yet that’s why bringing in such well respected names as Dina Asher-Smith and Judy Murray is a huge reason why we believe TWS will be a major success.
Ultimately all people really want to read about is our biggest names and what they’re up to so who better to tell those stories than the individuals themselves?
They will give us all the gossip, insight and knowledge we crave through the first person, something which will immediately make them feel more personable and relatable to readers and, in turn, make us want to follow not only their progress but also that of the others they will inevitably write about too.
Overseeing all these columnists too is the hugely respected Anna Kessel, author of ‘Eat, Sweat, Play’ (if you haven’t read it yet then you really must) and co-founder of Women in Football.
The revolution starts now.
Excited to rewrite the script 💥🎾🥊🏉🏏🏸🏋🏽♀️⛸🎽🥋🏂🤸🏾♀️🤺🏇 pic.twitter.com/O1GQMdh2tk
— Anna Kessel (@Anna_Kessel) March 18, 2019
One of the things that makes Anna stand out as a journalist is not just her constant drive to increase the amount of women’s sport in the news but also the fact that she is unafraid to tackle the negative subjects too.
In just it’s first week TWS has already produced pieces discussing how half of female athletes have admitted being bullied, the constant comments Simone Biles receives saying she ‘looks like a man’ because of her impressive muscles and Monica Seles emotionally depicting the mental struggles she has been through after being stabbed on court back in 1993.
And all of these came in the same week that Sheffield United’s Sophie Jones was found guilty of racially abusing Tottenham’s Renee Hector – a verdict she says she will appeal – while it was claimed 50 PSG fans were turned away from their Champions League game against Chelsea after allegedly arriving armed with weapons, fireworks and drugs.
None of these are stories are necessarily what we want to read but if we want complete equality in media sport coverage then they have to be told.
We need to appreciate and know about the issues surrounding sport in order to appreciate the positive stories even more. It is then that women’s sport and men’s sport will simply just become sport.
It may have barely got off the ground but TWS has already made an impact in beginning to re-address the significant gender imbalance of our sporting journalism coverage, with several of its pieces being among the Telegraph’s ‘Most Read’ sport items.
This could be the start of something very special.