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Mainstream media is dropping the ball on women's sport

  • 28 January 2021
2021 is set to be a big year for women’s sports — dependent on COVID, of course. Yet, if you looked to the Australian mainstream media’s reporting and coverage of sports, there’s a fair chance you’d get an idea that women’s sports are happening far less than they actually are.

Currently, on any given day in Australia, women’s sport seldom rises above 10 per cent of total sports coverage, and globally, that drops to 4 per cent. Yet there is no shortage of women’s sports to cover; Women’s International Cricket currently underway; the fifth ALFW season set to return in February; the Women’s Australian Open about to kick off; the delayed 2020 Olympics predicted for July and August; the 2022/23 FIBA and FIFA Women’s World Cups personal campaigns will get underway; and the 2021 Women’s Rugby League World Cup and Women’s Big Bash League will see the year out — and that’s just to note a few.

The common argument to justify the disparity between these sports and their men’s counter leagues is that people just don’t watch women’s sports or click on articles about women’s games as much as they do the men’s. For example, last year, Australian journalist Greg Davis tweeted, ‘I know from first-hand experience that stories on elite women’s sport don’t rate online (especially netty). And numbers totally rule the roost in the digital space.’

Yet, this argument falls short with the simple fact that interest in women’s sports and people willing and wanting to watch and take part in spectatorship — both in person and via platforms or TV — is there. And the numbers are growing. A survey by Nielsen across eight key sporting markets globally found that 66 per cent of the population are interested in at least one women’s sport and 84 per cent of sports enthusiasts are interested in women’s sports in general, which of those, 51 per cent are male — meaning it’s not just women who watch/want to watch women’s games either.

Deloitte predicts that in 2021, women’s sports will generate revenue well under a billion dollars, which is a significantly small fraction of all global sports revenue (which in 2018 reached US$481 billion). Yet, as the report entails, when given the opportunity, women’s sports has the ‘ability to generate substantial TV audiences, deliver value to sponsors, and draw tens of thousands of fans per event’, which, ‘has been