Europe’s first think tank in the field of sport, Sport and Citizenship, launches the first workshop to discuss women in sport in the media, with a media-roundtable, hosted at the UEFA headquarters, in Switzerland.
The Media Roundtable: Why support women football in Europe was opened with the sentiments of former Women’s Tennis Champion, Billie Jean King, in mind, “I want to use sport for social change.” This theme continued throughout the day, as speakers voiced their opinions on how the status of women in football could advance the rights on women, under three debates.
Debate 1: “What is the approach developed by media as regard to women in sport”
The representation of women in sports media
Thomas Horky, Professor of Sports Journalism at Macromedia Hochschule für Medien and Kommunikation, Germany’s only university to offer undergraduate study in Sports Journalism, presented the findings of the newly published International Sports Press Survey. The research found that the gender focus of over 81 publications worldwide focused on male sports, mirroring the underrepresentation of women working in sports journalism, as 92% of named sports journalists are male. These concerning statistics follow the success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany last year, becoming the highest trending sports event on Twitter in 2011.
The ‘winning’ formula
Horky’s study shows that the winning formula to women receiving press coverage still depends on the dated formula‘Performance + Attractiveness = Coverage’
Debate 2: “What is the impact of poor media coverage on women sport practice as well as involvement in sport management”
Modernisation will break the Glass ceiling
Sports specialist, Ainoha Azurmandi, founder of Avento Consultoria, believes that the glass ceiling indicators, which include meeting times that exclude women from domestic duties, continues to be present in sports organisations. In organisations where few women occupy high administrative positions, they are often left isolated in a male-dominated environment. These factors give women little motivation to work in these organisations and subsequently, do not apply for these positions, which are then occupied by men, thus becoming an ‘old boys network.’ Organisations need to do more to modernise their workplace and policies which can include and give women the same responsibility as their male counterparts.
The impact of role models
Mel Paramasivan of sportanddev compared the use of role modelling programmes in sport and development to engage girls into sport versus the mixed messaging of elite females in the mass media.
Reynald Blion, Media Against Racism in Sport, Programme Manager from the Council of Europe, also highlighted the danger of not representing women’s sports in the media to accommodate the escalating numbers of women participating in sport. “Women’s sports coverage is promoting role models and currently there is an under representation in the media,” he said.
Reaching a common understanding
MEP and Chair of the ‘Friends of football’ in the European Parliament, Emine Bozkurt, highlighted the need for a common understanding of including women in all layers of sport and to overcome the barriers between masculine and feminine sport so that men and women can enjoy equal rights, which can only be achieved if women are represented in decision making positions. She also called for the removal of ‘Women’s bodies’ within sports associations, so that women can sit equally beside men.
Debate 3: “What do we expect from institutions?”
Blion shared the work of the Council of Europe, which offers work exchanges for media professionals to produce news and sports reports around social issues and diversity. He also argued that we should not be taking a gendered approach, instead, look at assessing the role and position of men in helping gain an equal balance of coverage in the media.
Women need to occupy more seats on executive committees
William Gaillard, Senior Advisor to the UEFA President says the appointment of UEFA’s first female Executive Committee member, Karen Espelund, last year provided “Small steps for mankind, but big steps for football.” Bozkurt, admits that “there has certainly been an acceleration in the work done in this field in recent years” but the door to women entering higher positions in football federations and associations remains “ajar.”
Increasing the professional capacity of women in sport
sportanddev also highlighted the Women in Leadership and Development programme from UK Sport, which addresses the low level of women in senior administrative positions in sport. The programme which has been running since 2006, has seen great results, as 70% of participants have been promoted as a result of the bespoke training.
Budgets to develop women’s football need to increase
UEFA Women’s Football Coordinator, Emily Shaw, highlighted the struggles of many women’s football clubs in securing funding, despite the running costs of a club equaling the same amount of money a professional male footballer earns in a week. The media exposure of women in sport is now hindering women to be involved in the sport and for potential sponsorship, even though the Women’s World Cup in Germany drew in almost identical audiences to the men’s football tournament during television broadcasts in Germany.
Is the media to blame?
Gaillard drew upon his experience of working with the media to point out that the media will not just publish a story that is given to them, women’s football needs to be ‘attractive.’ This view is echoed by Guardian journalist, Owen Gibson in the article, Sport is not an expression that should be censored.
By Mel Paramasivan from Sport and Devsportetcitoyennete