‘Lousy Smarch weather’, Homer Simpson once opined, and never has Matt Groenig’s cartoon magnum opus seemed more prescient than in the midst of what feels like the 825th month of winter which we’ve endured this year. One of the best things about British spring is the traditional return to vaguely pleasant sporting conditions, yet this March has already seen the first proper weekend of women’s football decimated by the blizzards that continue to hit the country (more on that in the first of our weekly women’s football reviews, beginning on the blog tomorrow evening).
That said, with all the major men’s football of the weekend played out on Friday evening and the international rugby world situated in a bit of a post-Six Nations lull, surely this is the weekend for the media to seize the opportunity to cover some women’s sport. Right?
The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times continues its campaign of being pretty darn good at this women’s sport lark with essentially two whole pages dedicated to it in various guises. David Walsh continues his crusade against drugs in sport with a near full-page expose on the possibility that Turkish Olympic gold medal winner, Cakir Alptekin faces a potential lifetime ban if found guilty of a second drugs offence, with previous samples to be retested in light of new suspicions. A profile of 22-year old Med student Lauren Howarth, who competes today as part of the Great British Cross Country World Championships team before returning to university to her medical exams brings welcome exposure to a sport that gets little by way of media coverage, while there is also a preview of this afternoon’s Women’s Boat Race.
The back pages also give us a full page on Amy Ryan, the 23-year old jockey who last year became the first woman to win the apprentice championship outright and displays a refreshingly down-to-earth approach to seeking to earn a living from the hobby she loves.
The Sunday Mirror
Despite there really being no football whatsoever to talk about this weekend, the Sunday Mirror still manages to dedicate 9 of the 13 pages in its main sports section to the game, plus its usual football pullout. That really is astonishing, isn’t it? As usual, though, the paper keeps to tradition with a small piece on women’s football (Arsenal and Rachel Yankey today) plus a short mention of Laura Robson’s defeat to Alize Cornet on Friday evening in the WTA Sony Open. Talk of tennis makes us wonder if Wimbledon has ever had to delay play because of snow? 2013, this could be your year to make history.
The Mail on Sunday
Our thoughts on the Mail on Sunday have been relatively consistent since the outset of our weekly media review, yet with the incredibly heartening appointment of Alison Kervin as the paper’s Sports Editor, we have decided to give it a fresh page to start from. As she doesn’t commence her appointment until next month, it will be truly fascinating to see what stamp Kervin applied to the paper. Needless to say, any increase in women’s sport representation will be incredibly welcome for a paper which, for the most part, tends to shy firmly away.
This week, there is a whole page dedicated to Amy Ryan, which forms a pleasant counterpoint to the article offered up in the Sunday Times, but frankly that’s all there is.
The Independent on Sunday
I write this paragraph with some reticence. I like the Independent as a paper. I like its internet-on-print paper, i. I believe it to be staffed by a team of genuinely good journalists. I think this week’s edition of the sports pages is one of the most disappointing I’ve ever read.
There is no mention of women’s sport, save for a short paragraph on Curling on the penultimate pages. There is one mention of a woman in men’s sport, a large double-paged spread, replete with full pictorial accompaniment. Its headline: ‘Exactly what is this woman doing at Rovers?’
Now, here’s the dilemma. The article itself makes a fair and justifiable point. Without delving into the intricacies of the situation (this blog is not for that), the Venky’s stewardship of Blackburn Rovers FC has been a travesty from the moment they relieved incumbent manager Sam Allardyce of his duties, less than 2 months from the completion of their takeover. Since then, the club has lurched between anarchy and free fall, this week sacking its fifth manager of the season. The ownership body is, frankly, destroying a proud institution of a football club. And this is a point worth raising. Our issue, though, is the identification of Anuradha Desai as the chief culprit. As the head of the company, yes, her role in the destruction of the club must be brought into question, but the implication of both headline and article holds that her gender contributes to her lack of knowledge about football. This is the point I feel personally uncomfortable with.
Frankly, I’m astonished. The ever-reliable Observer has proven itself to be far less than reliable, with barely a mention of women’s sport this week. For shame. A brief paragraph on women’s tennis tacked onto a main article about, inevitably, Andy Murray is the only piece of actual reporting featured while short previews of Lisa Mason’s return to competitive gymnastics at 31, the women’s boat race and a quote from the Northerner with the world’s most infectious smile, Hannah Cockroft, on this week’s Trial IPC Event rounds things off.
Apparently women’s sport journalism has gone into hibernation with the snow. Let’s hope it recovers quickly.