The One Thing It Would Take For Women’s Sport To Become More Popular

On the morning of Wednesday the 12th March 2014 I was listening to one of my favourite radio broadcasters Angela Catterns on one of my two favourite radio stations, Sydney’s 2UE (the other being Sydney’s ABC 702 her former station). She was speaking to Keegan Buzza who, as the radio station’s website states, looks behind the news when it comes to talking about sport. That is – well how I interpret it – he looks at other things rather than just to sports headlines.

Today they were discussing women in sport and the fact that women’s sport has a lack of money, a lack of support, a lack of audience, and a seemingly sexist approach to sportswomen and their sponsorship dollars only being paid if they are prepared to do the sexy shots in the advertising campaigns they front.

None of those points I can argue with because the truth is, the figures don’t lie and the support is not there. I called the radio station and spoke to Angela and Keegan and shared my thoughts.

The main comment that I made is that I lay some of the blame on those online magazines aimed at women, especially Mia Freedman’s Mamamia site. I said (and you need to know that I got this wrong) that two million women visit the site weekly and that it should be the responsibility of her website to promote women’s sport.

Now before I go on, I just want to share the correct data that appears on the Mamamia – About Mamamia page;

“More than 1.7 million Australian women (and the occasional bloke too!) log onto Mamamia and our sister site iVillage.com.au every month.”

That occasional bloke by the way, is me, but I digress…

I went on to state that instead of the writers for this website only writing stories about sexism in sport, the oppression of women in sport, etcetera, etcetera, they should talk about women’s sport in a positive light, promoting the sports and reporting on the scores on a weekly basis.

But I want to draw your attention to something that is lacking on this site. Sport. Sport as as a category. Sport as a topic. The picture below is a mash-up of a few screen prints I put together to show that, not under the title of news, nor the title of social, not even under the title of entertainment (and yes, sport is very entertaining) will you find a sub-heading called sport.

mamamia front page“But hang on a second Darrell,” I hear you say, “Modern Father Online is a blog promoting good fathers and talking about men’s issues. You don’t even have any daughters that you need to enter this fight for. Why do you care?”

Good question dear reader. I like women’s sport. I like men’s sport. I like sport. I like what sport has to offer, when it is offering something positive that is. The health benefits, the camaraderie, the feeling of belonging to something and making friends and wanting to achieve something with those friends. I don’t need to go into those issues about football teams gang raping women, high school coaches banning girls from the boys’ teams, and other negative things about sport; sites like Mamamia are already doing that.

But what they are not doing is reporting on the Australian Domestic Women’s Cricket Competition. They are not reporting on the Women’s W-League Soccer. They are not reporting on the Netball.

When they do report on women’s sport like in this article from 3rd August 2013 they are talking about how the boys wouldn’t let the girls play in their teams, and start the article with;

“The Southern Stars are currently ranked number one in the world.

Haven’t heard of them? I’m not surprised. They’re our women’s national cricket team, and yet they get very little coverage in Australian media – not nearly as much as the men’s cricket team is fortunate enough to get.”

Well Mamamia, you ARE the media. Stop pretending like you are not when it suits your cause. You go about the world telling everyone that you are a place where women come for news and, when I last checked, that’s exactly what media outlets do.

Eleven days after that article I read an article in The Guardian about Sarah Elliott who plays for the Southern Stars and who had recently scored a century all while breastfeeding her baby during breaks and during the night. I felt that I needed to inform the publisher and editor of Mamamia about this so I tweeted them.

women in sportAnd a couple of days later, did we get an article about the Southern Starts and Sarah Elliott’s achievement? Well they were briefly mentioned, hidden away down the bottom of this article about women “BEHIND the scenes” in sport.

On the 26th October 2013 there was an article about getting women to watch sport which was titled Is It True That Women Don’t Have Time To Watch Sport? There was a line that really bugged me in that article;

“But the great majority of women – although they might enjoy certain sports – don’t make watching it their priority. They’re incredibly busy, and with so many commitments, sport just becomes one that they can take or leave.”

The word “women” in the articles title, you see, could easily be interchanged with the word “mothers” and yes mothers ARE incredibly busy, with so many commitments, like taking their child to a live sporting event. A live women’s sporting event. Or maybe not.

So besides those article already mentioned along with this one about a female wakeboarder beating her male rivals or this one about sex selling sports what could websites like Mamamia do to promote women’s sport coverage and women participating in sport?

Just as the media sites have a sports section which drops down for the readers to view each professional sport listed, and just as they show the ladder for those sports, that’s something these sites could be doing.

women's w-league ladder
The W-League Ladder as of Wednesday 12th March 2013

I know you could go the the Official W-League website and see this, but so could I visit the NRL’s website to see the current ladder, but when I am visiting a news website like the Daily Telegraph’s, having the cricket, rugby league and AFL all in one place is great to get updates on all of them.

The other thing that attracts people into watching sports is becoming part of it. Being an Australian I know of the NFL but don’t really ever watch the game unless it’s the Super Bowl and that I am not working on the Monday morning when it’s shown live into Australia. But I was invited into a Super Coach competition with my American friends and it enticed me to not only follow last season, but watch a few of the games online or on free-to-air television when it’s shown at odd hours of the night/early morning.

So maybe a tipping competition for the W-League could be organised with a prized offered. This could be mistaken as trying to attract women into becoming gamblers, but it’s more than that. I’ll let Homer and Lisa Simpson explain;

Homer - Daddy's friend Moe promised to give him $50 if the Dolphins won.
Lisa - You made a bet? 
Homer - I wouldn't call it a bet. It's a little thing daddies do to make football more exciting.
Lisa - What could be more exciting than the savage ballet of pro football? 
Homer - Well, you know. You like ice cream, don't you? Don't you like ice cream better when it's covered with hot fudge and mounds of whipped cream, chopped nuts and those crumbled-up cookie things they mash up? Mmm crumbled-up cookie things.
Lisa - So gambling makes a good thing even better? 
Homer - That's right! My God it's like there's some kind of bond between us.

Now again, I’m not promoting gambling, but much in the same way a women isn’t going to be watching Sex and the City and not having an extra-curricular activity like shopping for shoes inspired by that, or her love of clothes and dating rich men inspire her to watch the show, a tipping competition will make that connection a little more exciting for the average viewer.

And why not, why shouldn’t there be a large organised tipping competition for a nationally recognised women’s sporting competition? And if not the soccer, why not the netball? And if not the netball, why not some other sporting event?

To finish it off, there is a sport that is played by women where the competition is equal to the men’s. A competition that is watched just as much as the men’s event is and at the elite level, during the Australian arm of the Grand Slam tournaments at the very least,  the pay for men and women is equal. Tennis. Female tennis players are household names just as much as their male counterparts. So it is possible for women’s sport to be watched and enjoyed by everyone.

We just need websites like Mamamia to pull their fingers out and promote the sport in a positive and pro-active, not a negative and reactive way.

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