Despite there being incredible female athletes, the disparity of coverage they receive compared to men is huge. We live in a world where every sport and game for men gets more coverage compared to sports for women and where men’s achievements seem more significant, why?
The Female Quotient (FQ) and global sports streaming platform DAZN recently conducted a survey in eight countries and found that 64% of viewers around the world don’t watch women’s sports because they don’t know enough about the athletes or the team, don’t have enough opportunities to watch or aren’t aware of where to watch it. A total of 80% of top-ranked sports news and highlights shows in the US studied over the past three decades had zero stories about women’s sports.
Another piece of research from Nottingham Trent University explored the effects of the pandemic on women’s elite sport. A total of 80 percent of female athletes say the growth of women’s sport hindered during pandemic by inequalities with men’s sport. This report shows that during the break in competition caused by the pandemic men’s sport was a priority but sportswomen earned less and had worse access to equipment which impacted their ability to train effectively. Some ended up buying equipment to create home gym setups despite the precarious financial situations they already found themselves in.
Female sports endure
However, a new report by Leaders in Sport and Sky shows that despite the challenges of the pandemic, women’s sport has great resilience and is not just surviving but thriving after an exciting summer of sport. In the UK, public interest in women’s sport has risen during the pandemic, with 21 percent of adults following it more than they did 18 months ago, according to the report. As an example, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) called the Tokyo Olympics the most gender-equal Games of all time. After 124 years and 28 Summer Olympic Games dominated by men, women comprised a record-breaking 49% of participants. Top countries like China, the USA, Australia, and Great Britain sent more women than men and mixed relay events in swimming and athletics made their debut.
This year’s Winter Olympics are also the most gender-balanced ones with 45% of women competing (a total of 1314) and for the first time, the first medal event was a women’s one, in ski jumping.
Last summer in the UK, cricket launched a new tournament, Hundred, that offered the same profile to the women’s and men’s teams. Hundred kicked off with a women’s fixture at The Oval which broke records both in attendance and viewing and it continued throughout its six-week run. The BBC’s prime-time coverage created several new stars.
Visibility is key
Increased visibility of women’s football has also played a key role, with 19% saying news reporting of women’s sport had made them want to watch games live or on TV and 41% believing that broadcasting of women’s sport should be treated the same as men.
France is the country with the most media coverage focused on women’s sports with 15% of media coverage because the government introduced a special 24 hours of women’s sports in 2014 and 2015 on key broadcast channels which lead to immediate visibility.
In England, Sky Sports and the BBC signed a “landmark” multimillion-pound deal for the broadcast rights to the Women’s Super League (WSL). The agreement, which will run for three years starting with the 2021-22 season, is believed to be worth around £8m a season and to be the biggest broadcast deal of any professional women’s football league in the world.
Some of the money will be used for central investments, which will include support for and development of refereeing, while the rest will be split among clubs with the WSL receiving 75% and the Championship a 25% share.
Last October, DAZN announced a partnership to cover the UEFA Women’s Champions League. From October through to the finals in May, all 61 matches are available live on DAZN and free globally on DAZN’s new UEFA Women’s Champions League YouTube channel. Building on a long-time commitment to women’s sport and long-term mission of growing the women’s game, DAZN unveiled content, broadcast coverage, talent and social plans to bring even more visibility to players, clubs and the elite competition itself. The agreement was one of the largest broadcast deals in women’s club football history and signifies another game-changing move in UEFA’s and its partners’ global commitment to women’s sport.
Barcelona’s Women Team sold more than 70,000 tickets in one day for their Women’s Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid at Camp Nou next month. The previous highest attendance for a women’s club match was Barca’s La Liga game against Atletico Madrid in 2019, with a crowd of 60,739. This is a huge achievement as The Champions League holders usually play at the 6,000-capacity Johan Cruyff Stadium at the club’s training centre.
The future of female sports
As a recent report by Deloitte says: it’s all down to business. The challenge in 2022 and beyond is for women’s sports to pull in substantial TV and stadium audiences consistently across multiple sports. This way the value to sponsors will be evident. The entire sports industry needs to work together to prove the value of women’s sport. Broadcasters need to give women more prime-time coverage, journalists should make sure they cover women’s achievements the same way as men’s and brands should use more female athletes as ambassadors.