Understandably, much of the sports coverage in this weekend’s papers concerns a certain disgraced one-time sportsman who does much to discredit the very notion of sportsmanship. While there is much more that we could say regarding Lance Armstrong’s treatment of the women that made up his entourage – and, indeed, much that we may say in the future about the gaps in his ‘confession’, particularly in relation to Emma O’Reilly and Betsy Andreu, we’re not going to consider mentions of the two as coverage of women in sport for this week’s media roundup. The story is Armstrong and he deserves no more attention than he’s already received.
The Sunday Mirror
The Sunday Mirror, that ever reliable bastion of predictability, with its no mention of women’s sport apart from a small nib in the football section. Oh, we know what to expect of you. Except this week we’ve been confounded! No mention whatsoever of women in the footballing columns, despite the presence of the women’s football representatives at the FA 150 celebrations earlier in the week.
Instead we have two small columns in the main section on the women’s section of the Australian Open, the first regarding Laura Robson’s third-round exit against American prodigy Sloane Stephens and the second Serena Williams’ thoughts on a certain aforementioned cheat.
More content, less actual coverage of women in sports. Not a good week for The Sunday Mirror.
Women’s Sport and The Observer are such well-established companions that what would appear an impressive level of coverage in a lesser paper seems practically old hat within the weekend Guardian’s hallowed pages.
This week, the typically high profile reporting comes from The Australian Open (Laura Robson earning high praise despite her defeat) and, more surprisingly, from the world of Judo where Olympic silver medallist and tearjerker-heroine Gemma Gibbons enjoys a half-page profile and interview.
We’ve two points that feel worth making here: the first concerns Gibbons, who explains her thoughts on GB Head of Judo, Densign White (it turns out she has no respect for him at all, and that his in-Games criticism of the Team GB Judo squad was taken extremely poorly). This is now the third high-profile criticism of Olympic sport leaders from athletes within their elite squads, following swimming and diving, and one has to wonder how much is rotten within the structure of British sporting governance that it so continually alienates its greatest stars.
The second is a response to the tennis. It is, of course, fantastic to see the women’s game getting such increased coverage on the back of the respective rise of Laura Robson and Heather Watson; it’s just slightly curious that such coverage seems so heavily weighted towards Robson, given that her compatriot is currently higher in the WTA rankings and remains Britain’s only tour champion for a lifetime. Perhaps it’s merely that Robson broke through first with her Wimbledon Juniors victory, or maybe it’s that Watson’s game is so atypical for the modern age, and perhaps puts more obstacles in the way of her longer-term progress, based as it is on positioning and finesse rather than power. Either way, we still find it slightly odd.
The Sunday Time
There’s a danger that we’re going to sound like a stuck record if things don’t change drastically in the near future but, for what feels like the 8000th consecutive week, The Sunday Times absolutely blows the competition out of the water in its coverage of women’s sport.
First up is the Australian Open. So far, so ordinary, right? Wrong. Apart from an informative roundup of the progress of the women’s tournament, there are two separate articles covering the near-meteoric rise of Laura Robson’s conqueror, Sloane Stephens, and the manner in which Robson and Heather Watson’s rise to the upper echelons of the world rankings is helping to cover up a distinct lack of talent pipeline in British women’s tennis. To be fair, this isn’t exactly new thought, and a lack of strength in depth has been the nemesis of British tennis for as long as this writer can remember. It’s great to see it given full coverage, though and interesting to hear details of the role Judy Murray continues to play in the identification and development of young, British prospects.
The paper then goes and offers a preview of the forthcoming women’s Cricket World Cup, containing the fantastic quote ‘Given the fuss over the possibility of Sarah Taylor, the team’s wicketkeeper-batsman, playing with and against male professionals, some cricket followers might be surprised the women do not view the summit of their game as representing Sussex second XI.’ Quite so.
Next up is a revealing piece on British Volleyball’s funding struggles (it stands to receive no further central funding under UK Sport’s current funding guidelines, despite the women’s team climbing 49 places in the world rankings and the men’s team achieving an even more dramatic rise), which helps to highlight some of the ‘off-the-pitch’ challenges faced by frequently female-dominated ‘niche’ sports.
And, finally, a half-page spread on the England-Australia netball series which commences today, offering a level of focus rarely provided to anything but the largest and highest-profile of sports.
By a conservative estimation, we’d say that The Sunday Times has dedicated almost a quarter of its sports pages to women in sport. What to say, except ‘bravo’?
The Sun on Sunday
You know how this is going to go; we know how this is going to go; The Sun on Sunday knows how this is going to go. We turned over our hard-earned 50 pence to, once again, discover women don’t actually play sport. Apart from some girl called Laura Robson who earned a whole 2 sentences for her efforts. Brilliant. Just brilliant.
Images from www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/tennis/australianopen, www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2013 and au.news.yahoo.com/