Women’s Sport vs The Media – Weekly Newspaper Roundup

There are some weeks we feel like this column could be phoned in.  Open template: ‘Observer good, everything not so good’, change the dates, alter a paper name or two, job done.  And when it’s as grim and disgusting outside as this morning, the temptation to not go out for every Sunday paper under the sun (although not including The Sun..) is almost overwhelming.  However on a week which saw the first of England Women’s Autumn Internationals (rugby union), the FA Women’s Football Awards (football), Arsenal’s first leg Champions League last-16 match (football, again) and a full schedule of competitive women’s sport, we didn’t really feel it would be fair to do this anything other than properly.

The Observer

Sports Pages:               18

Women in Sport:           2 + 4 page cover page interview with Jess Ennis

This feels like a good Sunday, so we’re going to start with the usually oh-so-reliable Observer to give us our warm glow of women in sport media representation.  And although the ratios above may not look good on first glance, this really is good stuff.

In the main sport section, not only is there a decent little side panel on women’s tennis (Serena Williams targeting the World Number 1 spot), but we get a genuine, pictorially illustrated, headline generating match report of England Women’s victory over the French in their first match of the Autumn International series.  It may not quite have the billing of the full two-page preview spread for the men’s tournament, which begins next weekend, but the match enjoys billing above and beyond the Aviva Premiership roundups.  Lovely to see.

And just as we assumed that would be that, there is a full 8 paragraph piece on Sport Funding, reporting on WSFF Chief Executive Sur Tibballs’ comments on governance targets for gender representation amongst sport governing bodies.  This is seriously encouraging reporting and brings in commentary from a number of existing female sporting executives in the UK – media taking a lead in highlighting the importance of women in sport?  Well done, Observer.  Well done.

There’s also a nice little piece in the ‘After the Games’ section regarding this week’s debut for First, the new film which followed 12 debutant Olympians during the 2012 Games.  It’s not exclusively about women, but given that Missy Franklin, Katie Taylor and Laura Trott are amongst the athletes followed, it’s surely worth a look.

Oh, and the Jess Ennis interview?  Not bad stuff at all.  It may be in the Magazine section, rather than the sport pages, and have a distinct focus on Ennis’ forthcoming autobiography (Christmas list, anyone?) but the core of the piece really is in her sporting achievements, not the personal life, ‘doesn’t she look pretty in a dress?’ type of fare we’d see from the glossies.

Oh, Observer.  Marry us?


The Sunday Mirror

Sports Pages:               14 + 20 page football pullout.

Women in Sport:           About 3 paragraphs.

The first time I read this, I got really, seriously angry.  I read through the main sport section twice and found only the briefest mention of women’s sport (the revocation of a ban on Indonesia’s women doubles pair, who had been caught up in the game throwing scandal during London 2012) and a complete lack of acknowledgement of yesterday’s Autumn Internationals.

Then I opened the football pullout, expecting nothing at all, and was surprised and delighted to see a bottom-of-the-page panel on page 15 previewing Arsenal Ladies’ second-leg tie against Potsdam on Wednesday.

It’s not much, but it’s great to see a little bit of genuine women’s football reportage.  Rugby next please, Sunday Mirror.


The Independent on Sunday

Sports Pages:               24

Women in Sport:           A few sentences + something I’m not too comfortable including

“Curious and curioser!” cried The Sportist (who were so much surprised that for the moment they quite forgot how to speak good English).  Okay, literary allusions over for the day, I’ll confess that I’ve always quite like The Independent.  Both as a general paper and as a sports section, at its best the writing is some of the highest quality journalism in the market.  So why on earth do they insist on totally ignoring women’s sport?!

I had to read through the sports section three times to find anything on the women’s rugby (a sentence at the end of the rugby round up panel) and, as with the Sunday Mirror, Indonesian badminton gets a brief review.  The final page’s ‘Week Ahead’ review picks Friday’s highlight as the draw for the 2013 European Championships tournament in Sweden next summer.  But that’s your lot.

Now for the bit I’m not too comfortable with.  It’s also the bit that got me most excited, as I saw Nicola Adam’s boxing pose leading the front page banner of the main paper.  What I’d not immediately realised is that it was in relation to The Pink List, the Independent’s top 101 LGBT people, a list led by Adams herself in first spot, followed by Clare Balding in second and including England women’s captain Casey Stoney in 50th spot.  This is all quite excellent and it’s truly brilliant to see some of England’s most influential sporting women (we’re including Balding because of the amount of work she dedicates to the field of women in sport) given profile in a national publication, yet the disparity between the recognition of their achievements in the field of sport and the recognition of their profile as LGBT individuals makes me somewhat uncomfortable.  Frankly, I’m not qualified to comment and most of all it’s pleasing to see their names printed and highlighted for positive achievement.  Perhaps that’s the thing to take away from this.  Of course, if the Independent recognises their importance, maybe they could start to pay more attention to women in sport – LGBT, straight, or completely private in their sexual preferences.


The Mail on Sunday

Sports Pages:               24 page pullout + 3 back pages

Women in Sport:           Nothing.  Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.

Dear Mail on Sunday,

Women play sport too.  They really, really do.  There was even some fairly high profile demonstration of this over the course of the last week.

Your newspaper is a complete, misogynistic dinosaur.


The Sportist


The Sunday Times

Sports Pages:               16

Women in Sport:           2 pages

We’ve always had slightly mixed feelings on The Sunday Times.  Sometimes it looks like it’s going to be the next big paper to grasp women’s sport in a meaningful way and sometimes it seems as if it’s forgotten women exist at all.

This weekend we’ve got the former.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say this is the best single display of women in sport in the weekend media that we’ve seen from The Sunday Times and from almost any paper since The Olympics.

From the start there’s promise, with England’s women earning a front page pictorial headline ‘FRAGRANT RED ROSE – ENGLAND’S RUGBY WOMEN BEAT FRANCE 23-13’.  For a while, this looks like that’s all there’s going to be, a good quarter page match review + photo piece, but then we flip the page to find a 2/3rd page interview with Olympic rowing gold medallist Kat Copeland and a quarter page piece on sailing’s Sam Davies – a Briton and the sole female representative in the 20-strong fleet for the 3-month Vendee Globe race.  Following in Ellen MacArthur’s footsteps (she achieved 2nd place in 2001, both the highest placing for a non-French sailor and the best result for a female sailor to date), Davies will be hoping to improve on her fourth place finish in the 2008-2009 event achieved in one of the oldest boats in the fleet.  Davies is once again in one of the race’s oldest boats, yet her clear pedigree gives her an opportunity in this oh-so-French of sporting events.

One more thing to keep an eye out for, as reported by The Sunday Times – this Thursday (8th November) BBC Radio 5 Live will be broadcasting a 2-hour special from 7.00pm of The Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year awards.  This being the 25th anniversary of the awards, we’re hoping for some strong coverage, and the polish offered by BBC coverage is just the thing that’s needed.  We’re looking forward to it.


Image from http://www.rfu.com/ (thanks!)



  1. I only discovered this site a couple of weeks ago and welcome your attempt to actually measure the amount of coverage women’s sport receives,or rather doesn’t receive in the press, I actually tried to do this for a while about ten or fifteen years ago, pre internet, and I don’t think much has really changed.
    Incidentally, in reference to an earlier press round up, I do care about the Ryder Cup because I am a sports fan! Unfortunately, golf is one of the sports where the gap between coverage of the men’s and women’s games is most pronounced, (and it seems to me one of the most unjustified).
    The whole point is that men’s and women’s sport is intrinsically interesting, contrary to what sports editors seem to think, and it won’t help when the Solheim Cup rolls around and you are trying to convince people that it is worth covering and reading about if you alienate golf fans who do regard the former as a big deal. I am equally interested in the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup and I want the media, whilst reflecting their different histories, to reflect this. Unfortunately, the last few days have just illustrated that meidia disparity in the announcement of the where the next but one Solheim Cup will be played, not at Forest Pines, just outside sunny Scunthorpe but in mainland Europe for the first time. The first Ryder Cup in mainland Europe was seen as worthy of comment, but golf writers and general sports writers alike have just ignored it, just as on Monday morning there are articles in the papers about the various men’s golf tournaments played over the weekend and of the various women’s tournaments there is hardly anything at all.

    • Hi Katharine,

      Thanks for the reply and sorry for the delayed response.

      You make some really valid points there and your reference to the damage that disparaging a sport as a whole (e.g. golf) can do to the women’s game (Solheim Cup) is worth making. I think, from our side, we probably have a personalised, opinion-based approach to our posts here – and it’s absolutely the case that we don’t always all agree on what we might individually post here!

      As an holistic entity, we certainly care about women’s golf – hence our earlier post on the Augusta National Golf Club in August (https://sportistblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/par-of-the-course/). It’s equally true, though, that we don’t much like golf as a sport in and of itself. Where I hope we differ from the mainstream media is that we will always look to afford each and every sport a balanced view…we may not like men’s golf, but we definitely think women in the game deserve better treatment both within and outside of the sport.

      If you wanted to help us redress the balance and fancied putting together an article on women’s golf at any point in the future, we’d absolutely love to hear from you!


  2. I agree totally.

    Thankfully the olympics have shed light on the fact that womens sport is equal too, or in some cases they are more fun, than male sports. I mean, the media are a driving force in the way we see sport, and too see such little is not a true reflection on how hard women athletes do work. I think they do need to do a little bit more, get some major sponsors and get rid of the old ways.

    Good post

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