Writing this week’s edition of the media roundup from the heart of the East of England countryside, The Sportist feels a long-way removed from the hustle and bustle of women’s sport. It’s been a busy weekend for the women’s sporting calendar, though, with the tennis season in full swing, football finally emerging from its endless-winter induced hibernation and the onset of the Grand National opening doors to women across the horse-racing circuit. Things are gearing up for recommencement in the RFU Women’s Premiership, too, with the first set of recommencement fixtures due for next weekend following the annual Six Nations postponement.
In the midst of the much-welcome long weekend, what do our regular Sunday papers have to report back on?
The Sunday Mirror
Hypothetically, if one were to leave a mirror in an empty, sealed-room, observed only by a fixed CCTV camera and look at it once a week, every week until the end of time, barring some moment of paranormality it would reflect the same thing endlessly, never changing. We assume that the editorial offices of the Sunday Mirror are slightly busier than an empty, sealed room, yet the effect of reading the paper for women’s sport coverage is remarkably similar. The paragraph on women’s football is firmly in place, focussing on Lincoln Ladies’ FA Cup quarter-final clash with Leeds, which reunites current LadyImps manager Rick Passmoor with the team that he famously took to the FA Cup Final back in 2008.
The main pages, meanwhile, have a short section on Laura Robson’s women’s doubles final in Miami where she partners Lisa Raymond against the World No. 1 pairing Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.
Come back next week, for exactly the same thing.
The Independent on Sunday
The Indy made us a little unhappy last week, what with its flagrant ignorance of women’s sport and a sense of it generally refusing to acknowledge that a Y chromosome is not a prerequisite for playing sport. This week’s offering goes some way to redressing the balance, though. A brief mention of newly-turned-17 golfer Charley Hull’s one-shot lead in the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco is a welcome piece of information from a sport The Sportist cannot claim to be well-versed in, but it is the paper’s central pages which reveal its true gem of the week.
Rachel Anderson fulfils an unheralded, oft-criticised and utterly critical role within the administrative functions of the global football mechanics. A former agent who began her career in player representation with ex-West Ham defender and notorious hard-man Julian Dicks, Anderson now sits on the Board of the Association of Football Agents, a body established 8 years ago in response to changes in the regulation of the Agent trade and the increased role played by FIFA in global football governance.
The core of Steve Tongue’s article focusses on the damage done to the regulated Agent profession by unscrupulous operators and an international governance model which allows far too much illicit activity to fall through the gaps. Articles such as this offer genuine hope that the tide is turning against such damaging activity, yet with so much conducted in the shadows, huge amounts of work still need to be done. What is particularly encouraging is seeing a woman sitting in a prominent, respected and impactful position in sporting governance in an area of the game that still attracts much opprobrium, both deserved and undeserved.
And for those of us who believe football still has a long journey to travel in achieving gender equality (and it really, really does), there is one small anecdote that reminds us of the distance it has already travelled: in 1998, Anderson was invited to the PFA dinner as a guest of Julian Dicks and immediately banned on account of her sex. With the support of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Anderson successfully fought the ban as a case of flagrant sex discrimination, bringing about cross-party support for amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act. How’s that for trailblazing?
The Mail on Sunday
From the sublime to the ridiculous, yes, it’s The Mail on Sunday! Two brief mentions here: firstly a tennis paragraph, Serena Williams’ victory over Maria Sharapova in the final of the Miami Open taking her record there two six victories, and also Laura Robson’s women’s doubles appearance today. Secondly, an obituary mention for 1952 Olympic Bronze medalist and founder of the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, Jean Pickering, who died last week aged 83.
The Sunday Telegraph
I think I need a lie down. Not only has The Sunday Telegraph given mention to women’s sport – it’s even put a picture of Laura Robson at the top of its front page! Hold the presses, ladies and gentlemen of Fleet Street, the Sunday Telegraph has covered women’s sport!
Joking aside, it’s a fantastic full-page article on Robson, covering her achievements in the soaring from a 100-ranking to her current number 2 in the world and the challenges of transitioning from junior to senior level tennis. Rather than the typical material, Simon Briggs’ profile shines a light on her in-game support network too, namely fellow up-and-comers Eugenie Bouchard, Heather Watson and Marina Erakovic, who all sit between number 39 (Watson) and number 123 (Bouchard) in the world and demonstrate a degree of the depth of talent which is beginning to emerge in women’s tennis globally.
There’s also a mention of Grand National trainer Rebecca Curtis, who has hopes of spoiling Katie Walsh’s challenge for the Grand National title with her own trained horse, Teaforthree.
We made no bones about it. Last week, the Observer was utter tripe. This week, thankfully, the trend is entirely reversed with some cracking coverage on women’s sport. Firstly – and most prominently – a page-and-a-half feature on road cycling’s proposed newest star Laura Trott as she looks to make the transition from Velodrome Virtuoso to Road Queen as part of the newly-formed Team Wiggle Honda. The interview is available on the Guardian website, but really we’re going to urge you to go out and buy the paper on the strength of this alone. It’s a truly brilliant interview and – coming a day after the daily edition’s equally brilliant interview with former men’s international footballer Robbie Rogers – goes to show that sometimes it really is worth paying for the best journalism (interestingly, as revealed by Ian Prior, one of Rogers’ reasons for giving his interview to the Guardian above other British papers was its lack of a paywall.)
There’s also a big ticket interview with Katie Walsh as she bids to become the first female Grand National winner, while half of the paper’s tennis coverage is given over to Serena Williams’ victory in Miami and Laura Robson’s doubles final. Admittedly this is all under an Andy Murray headline, but that’s really not even a surprise anymore.
All in all, then, a genuinely good week for the nation’s Sundays. We were disappointed not to be able to find a copy of the Sunday Times for comparison purposes today, but after a pretty shabby effort last week, this has proven a very welcome Easter tonic. Congratulations, papers of the nation!
Image from Guardian.co.uk – thank you!