Friday, January 30, 2009

A political football

You might have noticed that I've started monitoring the level of coverage the Guardian gives to women's sport. It's online coverage is better than in the print version of the paper.

At the top left of my blog, I'm providing links to all the articles that have appeared in its 12-page sports supplement so far this year. It's not particularly impressive. If it wasn't for Dokic and the Williams sisters, there'd only be two articles. One focuses on the UK's best hope for success in the Melbourne tennis tournament and the final one - on women's football (soccer) - actually reports on the career progress of a male coach. Not a word on the actual success or not of any women in football.

This bothers me for a number of reasons - in no particular order...
  • why does male football have to account for such a large proportion of print sports coverage - guys tell me they would like to read more about golf, boxing, kayaking, windsurfing, squash and so on. There's a lot of diversity in sport and that's not reflected in the mainstream daily press.
  • why do women in sport barely get a look in? The Olympics showed evidence of women's success in sport and many women bloggers confirmed in a number of different posts and comments how inspiring this was to see.
  • if so much money can be generated by male sport - in particular UK soccer - why isn't this commercial success being exploited in female sport?
The lack of good print coverage of women's sport - beyond the sexy photoshoots of sportswomen in Sunday supplements - is especially frustrating when there are so many lifestyle articles denigrating women for their lack of involvement in team sports.

There are plenty of women involved in team sports like hockey, netball, rugby and football - I'm sure there'd be even more of them if this activity wasn't practically invisible to anyone who relied on the sports section of newspapers for coverage of women in sport.

Another dimension to women in sport, is that it can be political. In Iran, football for men and women is extremely popular. A leading team - Esteghlal - is now in trouble because during a training overlap, its male and female teams were on the same pitch for ten minutes. The football academy director may be sacked for this and who knows, maybe even the players themselves may suffer repercussions.

Sport is one of a limited number of ways women in Iran can express themselves through physical movement. These women - and indeed the men who coach, manage and finance the teams put themselves at risk of prosecution and harrassment for falling foul of the state's strict interpretation of Islamic behaviour.

Their determination to play, despite the difficulties, has helped me decide to create a new blog. I'll use it to highlight women's achievements in sports. It's going to take a little while for me to find my sources, but please send me your thoughts, any useful links and even content - I think this could be a good blog for additional contributors. While I might focus on UK sport, I'm interested in including international stories too.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for making me think about the coverage of women's sport. I will look out for it more now in the press.

Woman in a Window said...

I think this is a commendable effort! (I'm not a big sports fan but I do happen to believe a fair shake IS a fair shake.)

mothership said...

I live in the US and there is far more coverage of women's sports here, especially in my town - lots of university team sport and the women's swim and soccer team in particular do very well. I can remember as a small girl (back in the late 70's in the UK) getting up a petition so that we girls could play footie instead of just netball at school and I was suspended for my troubles. This taught me that a) sport is a man's world and they don't like to share b) the life of a revolutionary is a hard one and c) it's good being suspended because you get to stay at home and watch Hong Kong Phooey.
I'm envious your daughter will look at the computer. Mine just howls and says I love it more than her.

Sass E-mum said...

Mothership - that's a very heartwarming comment. There IS hope.

... they don't like to share... so funny.

And now I'm thinking about HKP. Thank you!

scrappysue said...

ugh - don't even get me started! our women's rugby team are WORLD champions, but did we ever see ANY televised games? our male team - the mighty all blacks (chokers) who can't seem to win a world cup - get EVERY game broadcast and dont' even get me started on how much MONEY they spend on men's sport v women!

the only female sport we regularly see televised is netball and that's taken YEEEEEEEEEEARS, and it's probably onl coz they're all hot and wearing short skirts.....

New Mum, Same Old Me said...

I support Arsenal. I enjoy watching the matches and chatting about it with friends. Arsenal Ladies are the best Ladies team in the country, but they are rarely covered in the press.

This is because men (mostly) write the articles and men don't go and watch ladies football.

And I must admit, neither do I! But, suitably ashamed, I will look for a match and make the effort.