Women’s Sports Coverage

There might, of course, be a higher demand for female sports journalists if women’s sport were higher up the news agenda, with editors choosing to assign female reporters to cover women’s teams.

As it stands, female teams at both club and international level remain chronically underrepresented in British media. A report by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation found that a meagre 5% of sports media coverage focused on female teams or athletes.

Women’s football has certainly benefited from increased coverage in recent years, with England’s quarter final against France shown on BBC Two in 2011.

Nevertheless, reporting on the semi-professional women’s leagues remains limited to the occasional photo in the newspapers.
‘Sometimes I think the women’s game gets a bit extra of a leg up because of the success and popularity of football in general’, admits O’Neill. ‘Then again, women’s football is the third biggest participation sport in England and yet men’s Rugby Union and men’s Rugby League get more media coverage’.

The same problems arise in the coverage given to women’s rugby teams. Despite winning the Six Nations for seven years in a row and reaching three consecutive world cup finals, the England women’s team struggles to secure media exposure.

‘Whilst the male rugby union team hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons, and blown out of all proportion, the female rugby team barely gets a mention despite all their successes,’ points out Osborne.

Perilously low interest from corporate advertisers is one of the main issues behind the limited public profile of many women’s sports. No money means no publicity, fewer supporters and thus far less interest from broadcasters and publications alike.

Attempts by Sport Magazine to produce a flip edition, with half of the issue covering solely female athletes, failed after a matter of weeks because of a lack of corporate interest.

We really struggled and that’s how we make our money. So if I cant prove to the editor that it’s commercially viable, we’re not going to do it, which is a real shame,’ explains Shepherd.

Future

There are a host of archaic and damaging assumptions that need shattering before female sports writers secure the respect and presence they deserve.

Female sports journalists needn’t be restricted to perceived ‘girlier’ sports, they are just as capable of reporting as their male counterparts and are no less informed or passionate about their industry.

The sooner these messages are absorbed by those at the top end of sports journalism, the easier it will be for the next generation of female sports journalists to make their mark. The rest, of course, is down to them.

Feature: Women in Sports Journalism

The world of sports, it seems, remains as impenetrable for women off the field as it is on the field, and nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of sports journalism. Speaking to three female sports journalists, What Glass Ceiling considers why the industry remains so male-dominated, and why women’s sport rarely gets a look in on coverage.

It remains one of the most male-dominated areas in British media and one of the hardest for aspiring young talents to crack. With less than 3% of sports reporters actually being female, sports journalism continues to lag behind other areas of the industry in encouraging women to consider it as a viable career option. Whilst some media forms are doing better than others in featuring female faces (and voices) in its coverage, others continue to be almost entirely staffed by men.

Whilst television and radio sports coverage now features a smattering of big female names as part of their coverage, the British press remains woefully behind its media peers in the number of female sports journalists it employs.

Shockingly, not a single one of Britain’s national weekly or Sunday papers boasts a female sports editor. It is widely acknowledged that this lack of female editorial staff was a significant factor in the utterly female-free shortlist for the 2012 BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Prominent female sports writers remain firmly in the minority in broadsheets and tabloids alike. The Telegraph’s Jacquelin Magnay, for example, whilst widely respected for her work as the paper’s Olympic Sports Editor is one of the only woman to hold such a position.

The only female sports editors to be found at this stage are those in charge of publications dedicated to women’s sport, such as Jen O’Neill, editor of She Kicks.

She agrees that there is still a disappointing lack of female sports journalists in mainstream print media. ‘It’s been a very blokey atmosphere for a long time and many of the established order probably want to keep it that way,’ she says.

Nevertheless, there is room for optimism. ‘It’s changing as younger sports editors come on board,’ she adds. ‘Social media changes access to information and the way people think and more women work their way into visible and occasionally influential positions’.

Sports journalism might never even occur to women as a potential career option, as Sarah Shephard, a senior writer at Sport Magazine, suggests.

I did read a statistic about the number of women on sports journalism courses and it’s pitiful,’ she admits. ‘The fact that very few women choose to do that degree suggest that maybe they’re put off because they think they’ll never get into it’.
As much as I love sport, growing up it never occurred to me I could get into this as a job possibly because I didn’t see many female names in the newspapers on the back pages. Maybe it’s just the fact that they don’t think about it as a career opportunity’.