I picked up the habit of reading the newspaper backwards from a young age. You’re always sure to catch the important stuff first (namely the sport) by leafing in reverse. Yet even now, it’s not unusual to have to turn a page, or two or three, before a female name crops up.
In many local papers, tales of athletic triumphs and trophies mix with talk from the region’s terraces, but little, if anything at all, from the sidelines of women’s sports. And it’s coverage for netball – the UK’s most popular participation sport for females, with more than one million women and girls taking part each week – that’s the most obvious omission.
In the town I grew up, the story is typical. There’s an active netball league, so eight or nine courts are filled with action during two separate time slots, every Monday night. If each team brings eight players along, that’s almost 300 women taking part in competitive sport, every week, in one town alone. Yet the coverage in the local rag may stretch to a league table every couple of months. That’s if you’re lucky. Compare that with the column inches reserved for Sunday league football, where tackle-by-tackle reports are the norm every seven days.
A quick glance at the sports correspondents’ names yields no surprises. The majority are men. It doesn’t take a woman to report on women’s activities, but I’m not sure many male sports hacks will admit a fervent desire to cover the latest happenings in local league netball. Newspaper sports desks need to widen their remit and their relevance to all of their readers. Regional media has been through some hard times of late, but a good local daily holds great power in helping to raise the profile of sport for all. It’s an essential means for encouraging more people, especially women, to get involved in activities in their area.
Bev Howard is an editor for a charity and lives in south London. Aside from regular netballing, she spends most of her weekends playing the obscure Dutch sport of Korfball – which boys can play too.
Bev Howard, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Image credit: www.backpageimages.com
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