Why is there such little coverage of women’s sport?

In the wake of the Andy Gray/Richard Keys controversy, Shamik Das looks at the lack of coverage of women's sport and asks if the media is institutionally sexist.

Uneven picture: Coverage of sports stories this afternoon

Sexism in sport is back in the news following Andy Gray and Richard Keys’s remarks about female assistant referee Sian Massey on Saturday – with the pair suspended by Sky Sports from their team for Chelsea’s visit to Bolton tonight. Criticism has been fierce and widespread, England captain Rio Ferdinand describing their views as “prehistoric”, and vice chair of West Ham Karren Brady saying the comments made her “blood boil”.

The question “Is sexism still rife in football?” has been widely debated today, yet will no doubt soon ebb away, just as it did five years ago when then Luton boss Mike Newell derided the appointment of a female assistant referee as “tokenism for the politically-correct idiots”; the underlying attitutes remain, and will do so for as long as the authorities, and in particular the media, fail to treat women in sport with respect and accord women’s sport the coverage it deserves.

Take today, and look at the coverage of women’s sport in the nation’s leading press and broadcast media. Below is a chart showing the number of links and headline stories by gender in the sports homepages of the Telegraph, Times, Indy, Guardian, Mail, Express, Mirror, Sun, BBC Sport and Sky Sports (snapshot taken at 1600hrs):

And those few stories that there are about women are almost all about the Australian Open, one of the handful of sports (if not the only one) in which there is parity between the sexes in pay, coverage and respect. In any other week, expect the tallies to have been even lower.

The more women involved in sport, the more participating, watching, enjoying sport, and working in the media, the less likely we are to see the outbursts of dinosaurs like Keys and Gray. At school, as I reported last year during the school sports funding debate, the gap between male and female participation has closed fast and is now minimal. The ‘PE and Sport Survey 2009/10‘ revealed 77% of girls and 79% of boys played intra-school competitive sport, with 46% of girls and 52% of boys playing inter-school competitive sport – yet at pro-level, the difference widens to a chasm.

One more example: England and Australia are battling it out for the Ashes in Sydney at the moment, needing nine more wickets to win, Australia requiring another 169 runs… but as it’s the women’s teams, you’re unlikely to be aware of it, and it’s doubtful there’ll be MBEs all round, an open-top bus parade and invite to Downing Street should they do it. Is the sports media institutionally sexist? Maybe not, but it sure looks like it.

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  • inyourhouse

    “And those few stories that there are about women are almost all about the Australian Open, one of the handful of sports (if not the only one) in which there is parity between the sexes in pay, coverage and respect.”

    This isn’t true. Women play 3 set matches while men pay 5 set matches, meaning that women are getting the same amount of money despite doing less work. That is not parity. Parity would be equalizing the number of sets both sexes are required to play, although something tells me that most so-called “progressives” won’t champion that cause.

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  • Robert

    I played the game, and ended up as a referee, after breaking my leg once to often. But after 21 years of refereeing and as many years playing, I do not think I would referee again.

    The abuse especially with kids games is ridicules, after one game I had £500 of damage done to my car as the coach stood by watching.

    According to most clubs referee’s are not human, so in all honesty without women coming into the game I really wonder where the future referees are going to come from, as the shortage at the bottom will affect those at the top.

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  • PT

    People pay to watch and read about the best teams and individuals in professional sport. As women are generally less physically able than men, it’s within reason that men will overwhelmingly dominate the peak of physical performance and skill – thus gaining far greater coverage.

    I can’t believe this is even open to debate.

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  • Mr. Sensible

    I think the comments of those 2 pundits were a disgrace.

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  • lol

    The Mail has the most female coverage, so the Mail is the most progressive?

  • http://www.order-order.com Guido Fawkes

    Why are popular soap gossip magazines like “Heat” targeted at woman?

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  • Oddjob

    Why is popular blog Guido Fawkes targeted at wankers?

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  • Mark Stevo

    No one, for the most part, has the slightest interest in women’s support. It’s almost universally less interesting than the male equivalent. It’s the same reason non-league football gets less coverage than the premiership.

  • Mark Stevo

    Support = sport. Bleh!

  • Robert

    The reason the premiership gets more TV is money Sky bought the rights, it also controls in the other leagues, whether it’s shown or not is due to control of sport by Sky.

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  • Anon E Mouse

    People don’t watch women’s sport because it’s boring.

    I follow the author of this article’s blog : http://shamikdas.blogspot.com/ and can honestly say women’s sport hasn’t been mentioned to my knowledge in the last two years.

    The cricket coverage is great but Shamik has never featured women’s netball because it’s tedious.

    As for the comments of Andy Grey they were off camera – this is supposed to be a free country and if I remember correctly Mr.Sensible you said it was OK for Gordon Brown to call Mrs Duffy a bigot because it was also off camera.

    Gordon Brown as a public servant should have known better. If you don’t like Greys comments don’t watch Sky Sports…

  • Mark Stevo

    Really Robert? If it wasn’t for Murdoch we’d all be watching Kettering Town on a Saturday afternoon? I don’t think so.

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  • Anon E Mouse

    Robert – Why not just exercise your right of veto and don’t have Sky TV.

    That’s what I’d do if I felt that way.

    (Shame I can’t do the same with the BBC that controls double the amount of news)

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  • Mr. Sensible

    “and if I remember correctly Mr.Sensible you said it was OK for Gordon Brown to call Mrs Duffy a bigot because it was also off camera.”

    No I don’t think you remember correctly, Mr Mouse.

    What Gordon Brown did was wrong, and he rightly apologized for it.

    BTW I think it’s worth reminding ourselves that the England womens’ football team is at the moment a lot more successful than the men…

    And as for the BBC, I don’t think I’ve seen any of this rubbish on MOTD.

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  • mickv808

    Nobody cares about women’s sport. That’s why there isn’t a Sport Section in Marie Claire.

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