Women’s sport is receiving more coverage than ever before
But gender equal media sports coverage can’t be a fad; it needs to be the norm
We are dedicated to giving women’s sport the platform it deserves
The platform to #BeSeenBeHeardBeInspired
— The 52 Blog (@the_52blog) September 14, 2019
What a summer it’s been for women’s sport.
There were World Cups and Ashes series. Joy and despair. Elation and ovations. Heartbreak and heartache.
Medals were won, goals scored, wickets taken.
The skill levels never wavered from world class, with barely believable sporting brilliance happening at regular intervals.
Not that this was different to any normal summer.
No, the big change wasn’t on the field – it was off it. For once, all of the action took place in full view of the public eye.
The action wasn’t unprecedented but the level of media coverage certainly was.
A recent study by the Women’s Sport Trust revealed between 7 June-14 July, around 46% of the top ten stories and 54.5% of the ‘most watched video clips’ on the BBC Sport website featured women’s sport.
Furthermore roughly a third of the leading sport stories on the Telegraph’s (30.2%) and Guardian’s (28.3%) online sport pages during the Women’s Football World Cup and Wimbledon were about women’s sport.
Over the summer we looked in detail at the volume and prominence around women’s sport coverage on leading websites in the UK.
— Women’s Sport Trust (@WomenSportTrust) September 4, 2019
And then there was the TV and radio coverage. BBC showed every single Women’s Football World Cup match, a decent proportion of which on its main channels, while Sky Sports also showed every game from the Netball World Cup and the Ashes.
The Beeb also aired many of the netball games, while talkSPORT played radio host to the football World Cup.
The Telegraph and GiveMeSport also launched dedicated women’s sport sections, while the BBC ran their #ChangeTheGame campaign.
Never before had we been exposed to this level of coverage dedicated solely to our female athletes. Perhaps for the first time, we as fans could fully immerse ourselves in women’s sport over a concert period of time.
We cheered. We cried. We punched the air. We screamed at the TV. We emulated celebrations. We debated.
And all because we were given the chance to.
Despite what the minority may argue, women’s sport wasn’t shoved down our throats. It wasn’t portrayed so heavily in the media just to tick a box. It didn’t dominate the back pages just to pacify the PC brigade.
It was shown simply because the demand is there.
We proved this last year with more than 6,000 hits to our site despite being a tiny independent blog with no financial backing whatsoever.
If we can achieve that, just think of the reach women’s sport could get if ALL the major outlets took it seriously.
— Telegraph Women’s Sport (@WomensSport) March 18, 2019
That is where we face our biggest challenge yet.
Gender equality in media sports coverage can’t be just as a fad; it needs to become the norm.
The results from this summer are hugely promising but they can’t be a one off. We can’t go back to a time where less than 3% of sports photos in national newspapers are of women, with days where absolutely no women were depicted whatsoever, as found by Totally Runable as recently as 2018.
As a result, as part of our rebrand, The 52 is dedicating itself to ensuring exactly that happens.
By recruiting an expanded writing team to cover as many areas of women’s sport as possible to give the deepest insight, we are aiming to give women’s sport the platform it deserves.
The platform to #BeSeenBeHeardBeInspired.
Women’s sport cannot flourish any further if it’s not given a chance to. This summer has proved the demand for it is there amongst the British public and now we need to make sure the level of coverage only continues to grow.
We need to treat women the same way in which we treat the men though. That’s not only profiling the incredible stories and recognising stunning achievements but also tackling the more important issues too. If a point needs making, we will make it. If a controversial topic needs addressing, we will address it. If a question needs asking, we will ask it.
The more we see women’s sport, the more likely we are to talk about it. How cool would it be to overhear children discussing whether they’d rather be like KJT or Dina Asher-Smith? People at the pub debating whether Leanne Riley or Natasha ‘Mo’ Hunt should start at scrum half for England in their next Six Nations game? Groups of friends gathered round a phone trying to work out whether they can attend the next round of Barclays FAWSL fixtures?
While it’s crucial to make gender equality in sports media the norm, this will only allow us to reach a certain number of people. We need to get people talking about women’s sport with their friends, uncles, neighbours and strangers in the street if we are going to make sure it reaches everyone in the country.
For too long aspiring female athletes grew up with only male role models to copy. Many of those who have made it to the elite level have often said they were barely aware of their female counterparts.
But we are now in a position to change that, to inspire girls to want to take up a sport and try to emulate their female heroes, if we make sure women’s sport continues to be seen and heard.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with a young female cricketer wanting to be the next Ben Stokes. But at the same time she should have the option to aspire to emulate Katherine Brunt or Georgia Elwiss too.
If we want to inspire the next generation, we need to increase how much we see and hear about women’s sport. And the more the next generation are inspired, the more we will see and hear about women’s sport.
That’s what we want. True media equality, giving women as much coverage as men, good or bad.
The chance to #BeSeenBeHeardBeInspired.