The fight for equal coverage of women’s sport

Nicole Cooke.jpg
Written by Elsie Boat

I must admit women’s sport has been riding high in recent months—the announcement that the England women’s cricket team are to be professional has been welcomed by all as a huge w

I must admit women’s sport has been riding high in recent months—the announcement that the England women’s cricket team are to be professional has been welcomed by all as a huge win, 2013 saw the PFA Awards feature the inaugural PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year Award, won by Arsenal Ladies’ Kim Little.

Even better, the Awards in 2014 will now name a Women’s Young Player of the Year and also give female players the chance to nominate their FA WSL Team of the Year.

Also, just last week, the Football Association and the BBC agreed a new exclusive national deal making Radio 5 live sports extra the home of live women’s football for 2014.

Based on these recent events, it seems like women’s sport is finally getting recognition—that is until you look at the stats and realise these developments are rare occurrences in the fight for equality for sports women.

Who is to blame?

On the back of the BBC’s announcement of covering women’s football, former Olympic cycling champion Nicole Cooke called on the BBC to give the same amount of coverage to women’s sport as it does to men’s.

Figures from the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation suggest just 5 per cent of media coverage in the UK is devoted to women’s sport whilst Sport Wales statistics show only 33 per cent of girls take part in sport frequently compared to 44 per cent of boys.

Cooke is not the only one to criticise the BBC on its lack of women sports coverage, an All Party Parliamentary Group on women’s sport and fitness back in 2012 called out the BBC and Channel 4 on their lack of coverage on women’s sports. The committee recommended that: ”The BBC should be looking at their remit and broadcasting women’s sport and a broader range of sports beyond male football.”

A recommendation the BBC clearly didn’t take on board.

Even the FA, which granted have made some inroads in women’s football are also found wanting when it comes to failing the women’s game. The governing body is guilty of underfunding the Women’s Super League and the Premier League, and for not making it mandatory for Premier League clubs to have female football teams.

The BBC and Channel 4 do get most of the criticism because they are publicly funded but they are not the only ones guilty of this problem, private media is probably the biggest culprits.

The arguments usually put forward for the lack of coverage is that no one is interested in women’s sport, but this is due to the lack of funding to get it to the highest level of competition compared to men sports. Besides, recent social media statistics suggest there is more interest in women’s sports than the media would like to admit.

A long term solution

How do we change the status quo? Well, Cooke suggested a law similar to US law where equal funding for male and female university sport is mandatory.

“We could do the same with TV time. If the BBC is paid for by the public, then maybe equality there could be brought in,” she said.

But perhaps the best way to effect change is through change of the law. There has been calls for legislative changes to ensure that the Equality Act 2010 is changed to ensure all sporting bodies have to comply. At the moment the main funding body for sport in England, Sport England, is not required to comply with the Act.

We all had high expectations that the London 2012 Olympics would help women’s sport gain the platform it truly deserves but there’s been no increase in women’s sport coverage since the 2012 Olympics.

Research from Birmingham University revealed that the Sun, Mirror, Times, Telegraph, Mail and Express actually produced fewer stories about women’s sports a year on from the Olympics than they did before. In total, stories about men’s sports outnumbered those about women’s sports by 20 to one in March 2013.

These newspapers will argue that they are just giving their readers what they want but perhaps if the same level of funding is put into women’s sports as it is men’s to make it professional and competitive at the highest level, we might open the back pages of a newspaper and find women’s sport.

What do you think? Should there be attention taken on women’s sport? Have your say in the comments section below.