Women’s Sport Coverage Decreases Since London 2012

As we reported at the time here on Hot For Writing, London 2012 was undoubtedly a triumph for women in sport. Whilst not all of the coverage around the event was positive, London 2012 sportswomen featured in media coverage around the world and many – see Jessica Ennis and Nicola Adams – have since become household names and visible media personalities here in the UK.

London 2012Given this, you’d think that the profile of women’s sport as a whole – as with the profile of many of Team GB’s elite sportswomen – would have also increased. Sadly, it seems that this is far from the case. A report released by Birmingham University last week sadly revealed that, when compared to men’s sport, stories in the British media focussing on women’s sport are still outnumbered by more than twenty to one.

When you read into the statistics produced by Birmingham further, things become even more disappointing – Birmingham’s research notes that six of the UK’s national newspapers actually produced fewer stories about women’s sport a year on from London 2012 than they did before the Olympics took place. Overall, 97% of sports coverage focussed on men’s sport a year on, with the amount of space given to women’s sport stories falling from 3.5% to 1.3%.

Dr Claire Packer, who led the study for the University of Birmingham, spoke about the report last week, saying:

‘Maybe it was unrealistic to expect the 2012 games to solve the gender bias in reporting. It needs a much bigger policy push and a bigger effort to change people’s behaviours within the media.’

I think this is exactly right, and the ‘no-one cares about women’s sport’ argument just doesn’t cut it here. There are so many reasons to push for women’s sport to have greater visibility in the British media, not least that it would be good for encouraging exercise amongst the UK’s girls and women, most of whom do not do nearly enough exercise. Speaking with The Guardian this week, Dr Packer went on to echo this sentiment, saying:

‘Despite the success of our female athletes both at the 2012 games and since, women’s sport, at least in the eyes of the print media we studied, remains a minority sport. Until we change this perception… public health will suffer as a result.’

Improvements to public health. Such a good reason to implement change. The knock-on effects in terms of the self-esteem of young women, health rates overall and the burden on the NHS could be absolutely enormous, and resoundingly positive.

Unfortunately though, our current government seems to consider it appropriate for the pages of our national newspapers to feature images of women in lingerie alongside their headlines. I sadly can’t see any forthcoming change with a view to featuring sportswomen in the news, even when the benefits could – arguably – be so great. Shame on them.

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