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Give women a sporting chance

24 July 2014

Greater coverage of women's sport in the media would make women's sports be taken seriously, encourage girls to become sporty and increase the attraction of sponsorship, a cross-party MPs' report has concluded.

The culture, media and sports select committee's inquiry into Women and Sport agreed with evidence, contributed by the NUJ, that the media had an important influence on the way women's sports are perceived and that media organisations should be taking on more women as sports reporters.

The report was published as the union launched a campaign to encourage an increase in the numbers of women in sports journalism and PR.

The Women and Sport report said:

"The NUJ argued that the 'briefest of flicks through the back pages of newspapers will show a dearth of women reporting or photographing sport and virtually no coverage of women's sporting events. This partially reflects the situation in national papers, where the majority of bylines belong to men… it seems that you are more likely to see a female reporter on the frontline of a war than the touchline of a football or rugby match.'"

The NUJ's submission gave examples of how sportswomen are trivialised by the media. John Inverdale, of the BBC, remarked that Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, was "never going to be a looker" and commentator Colin Murray, told the crowd, at the anniversary games in the Olympic stadium, that the ultimate athlete would have "the stamina of Mo (Farah), the speed of (Usain) Bolt, the leap of (Greg) Rutherford and the bottom of Jess Ennis".

This was taken up by the MPs who said the NUJ had highlighted the trivialising or simply disrespectful comments on sportswomen by both sports commentators and sports leaders as indications of a refusal to treat women as equal participants in sport. The NUJ submission said:

"What appears to be happening is that notions and perceptions of femininity, largely promoted by the media, do not include being sporty. It isn't just taking part in sport that is unfeminine. Having an interest in sport is, for women, straying into male territory."

The report concluded:

"There are comparatively easy ways in which the media could contribute to reinforcing the view that women's sport is normal and worthy of interest. One example would be for more national newspapers to publish the results of women's matches alongside the men's. Another would be for journalists and commentators to refrain from discussing the appearance of sportswomen and from making derogatory comments about the ability of women in general to play sports."

Lena Calvert, NUJ equality officer, said:

"The select committee report makes some sound recommendations; the sports world and the media's sports desks must take notice. We need more women to step forward and be taken on as sports reporters and we need women's sport to be taken seriously.
"Of the Press Gazette's top 50 sport journalists of 2012, two were women. That is why the NUJ will be working with sports organisations to encourage women to consider sports reporting as a career."

John Whittingdale MP, chair of the committee, said:

"Sport still has too male an image, and it will require efforts from sport governing bodies, the media, schools and government departments and agencies to encourage us all to view sporting activity as a normal activity for women, which should be encouraged and facilitated.
"As far as elite sportswomen are concerned, we must build on the very positive exposure given to them by the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. There is scope for greater, and better, media coverage and more commercial sponsorship…"

April's delegate meeting passed the following resolution:

This DM notes the union's submission to the Parliamentary inquiry on Women and Sport.

This DM believes that encouraging more women into sports journalism will have a positive effect on the coverage of women in sports.

This DM instructs the NEC to campaign around women in sports journalism by:

  1. working with other organisations supporting women in sports, including Women in Football
  2. organise training courses teaching women journalists how to move into sports reporting
  3. work with journalism colleges to encourage female trainees to consider sports reporting as a career.
  4. launch a campaign to encourage an increase in the numbers of women in sports journalism.

Women and Sport: the culture, media and sports select commitee report

Tags: , equality, sports, broadcasting, national newspapers, olympics, football, cms select committee, parliament uk, women