Of the issues affecting the representation of women in sport, probably the most troublesome is the lack of mainstream media coverage. On TV, radio, across the internet, sport as a whole generates exceptional interest from the media – sporting media, at heart, is an industry in itself. But why is the female sporting world so poorly represented? And, after the female powered gold rush of London 2012, is it getting better?
As part of a semi-regular series keeping tabs on the reporting of women’s sport, The Sportist will be reviewing the coverage of women’s sport in some of the main Sunday newspapers. Today’s lucky representatives: The Sunday Mirror, The Sunday Telegraph, The Sunday Times and The Observer.
The Sunday Mirror
Sports Pages: 16
Women’s Sport: 5 Paragraphs
Right, so here’s really where the issue lies. To believe The Sunday Mirror, women’s sport does not exist. At all. In sixteen full pages of sports reporting and opinion, the only mention of women in sport comes from a tiny five paragraph summary of Laura Robson’s defeat in the Guangzhou WTA final. On a day when Arsenal Ladies might well win their second consecutive FAWSL title and a day after the women’s road race at the cycling World Championships (where Emma Pooley finished a highly respectable fifteenth place – a result which is reported as an afterthought in the Results section), women’s sport is simply not deemed worthy of mention by The Sunday Mirror. We’ll not point out that every single by-lined report and opinion piece is written by an exclusively male journalistic sect. It would seem pretty obvious.
If you’re as irritated by this fact as we are, by the way, feel free to get in touch with The Sunday Mirror. firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be.
The Sunday Telegraph
Sports Pages: 12 page supplement
Women’s Sport: Half a page
Look, this still isn’t good, but it’s definitely an improvement. For those of us that still look to the back pages for sport – even in a dedicated supplement – The Sunday Telegraph is a good place to be, for staring back is a half page headline and main page image of Laura Robson’s final defeat to Su-Wieh Hsieh. Okay, the result may not be great, but this is proper sports reportage – no focus on the girl, a total focus on the sport itself. There’s even a decent, if brief, overview of the World Championships road race sandwiching a report on the World Twenty20 cricket (men’s game, unfortunately).
Here’s the clincher, though, in a wonderfully welcome line by Brendan Gallagher on Marianne Vos, winner of yesterday’s road race. ‘The Dutch rider, pound for pound, is probably the best cyclist in the world, male or female.’ – kudos for that, Brendan. Good to see.
The Sunday Times
Sports Pages: 18 page supplement
Women’s Sport: Quarter of a page
Not very good, Sunday Times. Not very good at all. Not only do you have to go looking for it, but again the only single representation of a woman playing sport (yes, Fleet Street, it does happen these days) comes in a short quarter page overview of Laura Robson’s defeat in…wait, I’ve said this before, haven’t I? Stuck away on the penultimate page of The Sunday Times’ bumper 18 page supplement, the write up of Robson’s match is at least a well written, interesting and informative piece and comes accompanied by another large scale picture of the girl ‘doing her tennis thing’. But the fact that this is all they could muster sticks in the throat somewhat – particularly when a similar level of coverage is given to ‘England’s Crimes Against Rugby Fashion’. Or perhaps that’s where The Sunday Times sees the true place of women in sport. Bloody hell.
Sports Pages: 18 page supplement
Women’s Sport: 1.5 pages
Oh, The Observer. Thank God for you. We could kiss you right here and now. We are so glad we left you to last
Again, a broadsheet with an 18 page supplement, but this time not only a high profile back-page lead on Laura Robson, but an accompanying sidebar entitles ‘After The Games’. This brings news of Danielle Brown’s involvement in the Archery World Cup grand final (the first disabled archer ever to compete in an able bodied grand final), Lucy Garner’s appearance in the British Track Championships on this coming Wednesday (this being the point, according to The Observer’s Giles Richards that Lizzie Armitstead and Joanna Roswell announced themselves to the world after the Beijing Games – a positive sign for Rio 2016) and Valerie Adams’ gold medal award following an in-Games doping dispute which led to the previous winner being disqualified.
And this isn’t even the best bit. A full interview with Arsenal and England full back Steph Houghton takes pride of place on page 6 of the supplement, including a breakdown of the Women’s Super League table as it stands. And there is a full page sidebar on the cycling too.
This, for almost the first time The Sportist can remember, represents true, equal coverage of women’s sport in the mainstream print media. This is the legacy we looked for and these are the early seeds.
So what are the others waiting for?
(The Steph Houghton interview is available in full on the Guardian’s website. Thanks for the image use also!)