Lizl Morden

Women, sports and the media

Lizl Morden
Lizl Morden

by Lizl Morden

I am not a sports fan by any means, I am such not a sports fan that I refer to football as soccer. What I do know about sports fits into one of three categories: news, general knowledge or world cup – I get really into world cups. So I rely heavily on media coverage of sport to keep me informed.

How many female athletes can you name? I am ashamed to say I can name more male soccer players than total female athletes. Of the female athletes you thought of, how many of those are tennis players? They somehow seem to be the female athletes that get the most media attention. A quick glance at the sports pages of news sites would lead one to believe that female athletes are either swimmers or tennis players. And volleyball players (cos y’know… bikinis). Naturally, the other times women are included in the sports-related pages are as hot spectators, cheerleaders or WAGs.

Those same news sites don’t even have categories for the more ‘traditional’ female sports such as hockey and netball. And the ratio of male/female athlete-related articles is shocking; I estimate that saying that even 10% of coverage is about female athletes is an overstatement.

The only reason I even ever started questioning how much I know about female athletes is that there was a mini profile of several female South African celebrities that included this woman I have never seen or heard of. And who turned out to be the captain of SA’s (female) soccer team! Simply shameful. I at least knew at some point who the captains were of men’s cricket, rugby and soccer, but never of women’s.

I said world cup was one of my sources of sport information; isn’t it interesting that I didn’t have to say men’s world cup? It’s implied. What about the women? They also worked hard and deserve media time which would, hopefully, equal support and sponsors. Lack of media attention can have serious consequences for female athletes, such as fewer sponsors because they don’t get much media, which means less pay. For some teams that even means unequal treatment in terms of transport. It’s time our sport-inclined sisters broke through that glass stadium roof and they can’t do it on their own.

To give you an idea of general sports coverage, the current categories on Sport24 include:

  • home
  • rugby
  • cricket
  • soccer
  • golf
  • tennis
  • motorsport
  • other sport (athletics and cycling)

On 10 June 2014 there was one featured article on one of those pages with a woman pictured.  The ‘other sport’ page had a women’s hockey team featured on top.

And the attention given to female athletes on the sports’ associations’ sites is only marginally better. On the South African Rugby Union website the categories include:

  • The Boks.
  • SA Teams – Springbok sevens, SA under 20 and SA women.
  • Tournaments – there are 15 main tournament categories, of which ‘women’ is one. ‘Women’ has the subcategories: IRB sevens and interprovincial A and B. Another one of the categories is ‘youth weeks’, which has 5 week-long tournaments, none of which include the word ‘girls’ or similar.

On the SAFA site, they have categories for the both the men and women’s teams for seniors, u20 and u17. Of the seven (outdated) competitions listed under the competitions tab, one is for women and that is the Women’s Regional League. Here are some interesting things I learned on this website: Banyana Banyana had their international debut only one year after Bafana Bafana; Banyana participated in the 2012 olympics and Bafana didn’t; on the national team’s soccer website Banyana doesn’t even have a ranking or a team history while, unsurprisingly, Bafana does.

On the Cricket SA website women’s cricket has its own main category. However, looking at the development section, one of  the 15 development programmes is aimed at girls. ONE.

And we wonder why people believe that women’s sport isn’t “as fun to watch” because women are “slower”. It’s because we are not given equal opportunities to develop, there are far fewer tournaments and, let’s face it, unequal reward. If you/we want equal development and recognition for our female athletes then I’m going to guess it would mean equal effort, development opportunities, resources and coverage.

I’m not a big fan of sports stars getting paid exorbitant amounts of money but I’m even less of a fan of pay inequality. This is a real issue. Both sexes put a lot of effort, exercise and discipline into being the best and only the men become stinking rich celebrities while their partners are in the pages of tabloids dedicated to WAGs. I’ve never heard of a HAB (husband and boyfriend), have you? (Heteronormative, I know, but that’s worth another few hundred words…)

Equal pay; equal treatment; equal media coverage. I may not be the biggest supporter of any sex’s athletes or teams but I’m sure our female athletes and their fans will appreciate it.


Also read: Springbok squad announced for Women’s Rugby World Cup

Also read: Is it really a ‘world’ cup when women don’t have the same opportunities

Also read: Alert: Today’s female FIFA World Cup soccer fan


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