Women’s Sport vs The Media – Weekly Newspaper roundup

Here, at The Sportist, we like new things.  New things like women’s football on the TV, or representation of female competitors in all Olympic nations, or chocolate Philadelphia (seriously, if you’ve not tried it yet, it’s flipping brilliant).  We also like rugby quite a lot, hence our two recent trips to the heartlands of rugby to pick up a sporting fix.  So today, in the interests of new things, we decided to bring in one of the non-mainstream papers to our sporting round up.  So please welcome The Rugby Paper to this weekend’s sports media roundup, alongside the lineup of usual suspects.  I bet you’re as excited as we are.

The Sunday Times

Sports Pages:               17

Women in Sport:           1 page

In recent weeks, The Sunday Times has been running old pro The Observer close as our weekend sports paper of choice.  Aside from a slightly bizarre refusal to actually acknowledge the sporting activity of the female populace in the aftermath of their Sportswoman of the Year awards earlier in the month, the paper has actually been genuinely growing its coverage of women in sport and this week sees further encouragement.

1 page out of 17 may not look all that great, but this one page actually constitutes four genuinely separate articles on some of the highest profile recent women’s sporting action.  From back to front (as I still insist on reading sports papers), we get a fantastic piece on Jess Varnish and Becky James’ performance at the Glasgow leg of the cycling World Cup, demonstrating the frightening strength enjoyed by British cycling at present.  Jason Kenny gets a mention on the men’s side, but the women’s sport is clearly the big ticket here and seeing it reported as such is a great boon.  A pleasingly insightful (albeit quite personally focussed) interview with Laura Robson – she still travels economy class, don’t’cha know? – and a fascinating Anna Watkins column follow, before we reach the real ace in The Sunday Times’ hand: a full, pictorially illustrated interview with England flanker Heather Fisher.

Honestly, this is basically worth the price of admission of itself: Fisher, the victim of a broken back in 2011, is a ferociously competitive character and her drive and determination shine through in a way that few sport stars can match.  The interview gives a good background to the forthcoming England – New Zealand test series and brings a reminder that the first two tests will enjoy free coverage on the RFU website, while the last will be broadcast on Sky 1.  Women’s Rugby!  Live!  On Sky 1!  Seriously, new things.  We love ‘em.

The Sun

Sports Pages:               11 plus 28 page football supplement

Women in Sport:           NOTHING

A quick dive into the cesspit at the other end of the Murdoch stables brings us to The Sun’s pathetic and continued refusal to acknowledge that women play sport.  Even the horrendously written 6 sentences they actually dedicate to the cycling is entirely focussed on Jason Kenny.  The Sun is not worth the price of the paper it’s printed on, so we’re just going to cut and paste the following for each week of The Sun from now until the end of time.  ‘Rubbish again.  Whatever.’

The Rugby Paper

Sports Pages:               Well, the whole thing.  It’s a sport paper.

Women in Sport:           1 side panel

I have to say, I was really hoping for more from this.  The Rugby Paper is an institution and genuinely the best place to go for your hit of rugby coverage, so it’s really disappointing to see that the women’s game gets almost as much attention as schoolboy rugby.  Sigh.  Nonetheless, the panel that is there is good enough reading to make it worthwhile having a perusal and there is slightly more encouragement in the fact that two columns are by-lined by Laura Murton – if we can’t have coverage of women’s sport, at least we get some coverage of sport by women.  It’s a start.

The Mail on Sunday

Sports Pages:               24

Women in Sport:           ¼ page

Laura Robson’s obviously been doing the rounds this week as she pops up in The Mail on Sunday with another interview, somewhat laughably billed as an ‘EXCLUSIVE’ by the Mail sports team despite the fact that the same exclusive is in most other papers this weekend.  Unfortunately, Robson is all we get of women’s sport in The Mail this weekend apart from the briefest mention of James and Varnish at the tail end of a paragraph on the cycling.  Must do better.

The Observer

Sports Pages:               20

Women in Sport:           1 page

Typical coverage from The Observer this week, who again demonstrate their commitment to women’s sport by actually, y’know, covering it.  Revolutionary, I know.  I’m actually a bit torn this week, because at heart I think this week’s Observer doesn’t quite meet the mark set by The Sunday Times, but it’s seriously good to see some sort of competition in the women’s sporting stakes.

This week’s fare is pretty standard stuff, the now expected Laura Robson interview is given near full page billing here (and it really is a good interview, but a little part of me does wonder whether Heather Watson shouldn’t be getting just a bit more attention given that she’s the title winner of the two, after all.  Anyway, I digress) and it’s backed up by a good piece on the cycling, which again prioritises Becky James and Jess Varnish’s respective performances.

Seeing as we all know how good The Observer is, it would be great to see them step it up again before the end of the year and really pull out all the stakes for one week on women’s sport.  Tell us what’s going on, give us some highlights of the week to come, educate us.  We need it.

Special Guest Appearance – Patrick Vieira’s Twitter Feed

Okay, no, this isn’t media, but given that Patrick Vieira is one of my all-time sporting heroes (I’m an Arsenal fan…sue me) I had to mention it.

Browsing through Twitter today, I came across these two little gems from the now Manchester City Football Development Executive:

“Great game at @MCLFC who won 1-0 today. Well done ladies.


“And @nikinoodles who does fantastic work for @MCLFC, all voluntarily. People like her are vital to drive sport forward


Given that Manchester City are beginning to generate some significant (and well-earned) momentum behind their women’s team, it’s great to see one of their most public administrative figureheads giving serious attention to that side of the sport.  Patrick, you utter legend, you.


Images from http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport, http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/ (via getty, http://www.mclfc.com/ and RFU.co.uk (thanks!)


One comment

  1. I’m afraid that I really consider the press in general a lost cause, through years of writing to newspapers trying to make what I consider a reasonal and rational case for covering sport played by women. It is only the internet which has given the possibility of customing one’s own coverage so that one can consider male and female sport to be equally interesting and worth reading about. I’m afraid that newspapers aren’t going to change any time soon, even in a climate where they all have to look at ways to increase or just maintain their circulations. The may look like are taking notice but in fact they give with one hand, creating the idea of a false dawn where they appear to be ‘getting it’ at last, and just take away with another. Witness the other week when there was a report on the England women’s rugby union team’s match in ‘The Guardian’ but then nothing on Arsenal Ladies in the Champions League. That’s the way it goes. The point is they will never cut back on coverage of men’s football and the Premiership in particular to make room for women’s sport whilst it is commercially imperative for them to cover the former. The creation of the Premiership twenty years ago increased the amount of football coverage exponentially and pushed out the coverage of various less moneyed sports at a stroke. It’s not called the ‘greed is good’ league for nothing. Just compare the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of twenty years ago to now. They used to regularly used to cover lacrosse! Only the other day I was frustrated that I couldn’t find the result of the televised men’s international bowls tournament in any of the papers, something that does usually make the small print but apparently couldn’t now. [Disclaimer. I do have wide sporting interests!]
    On a positive note the internet does provide access to a wide range of sporting information, not least that concerning women, that was simply not avaliable before. But the idea that there is some kind of automatic progress which comes into play when you point out to people the error of their ways unfortunately doesn’t seem to work. Also there are usually two steps forward and one back at best. The ‘Daily Express’ used to have a women’s football column, covering the domestic game for several years a few years back. When did you last read anything about women’s football in the ‘Express’ before and since the Olympics however? ‘The Guardian’ did the same but dropped it when the Women’s Super League was created, ie. pretty recently. Incidentially the one person who seems to write about women’s football consistantly is Tony Leighton who I believe was involved in the first incarnation of Charlton Ladies team, and has written a small piece in the ‘Sunday Mirror’ for a couple of years now which you noted in an earlier posting, Also I wonder if you are aware that Arsenal, England and Great Britain player Alex Scott has had a column in the ‘Morning Star’ for a few months now. It used to appear regularly on a Saturday during the WSL season but now appears intermittently when there is a Champions League or England game on. I think they are all still avaliable on the Arsenal Ladies’ site. The ‘Morning Star’ does seem to try hard on its limited resources to cover women’s sport to be fair. Recent things in both ‘The Times’ on women’s cricket and ‘The Independent’ on the three England captains were also very welcome but as usual it’s a lack of consistency of coverage which is the problem. Sorry to go on but I do really appreciate the site and am still trying to catch up with what you’ve published so far.
    PS I agree that ‘The Rugby Paper’ could do better but its sister paper has printed something on women’s cricket since it started a few months ago and should at least be praised for that.

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