A little girl runs into the living room and proudly exclaims to her father that one day she is going to play cricket for Australia.
Her father barely raises his eyes, despite his daughters excitement and then tells her this:
“Australian Women’s Cricket is essentially the same as watching 3rd Grade cricket, ’cause it still ain’t that good. No one really cares about it and 98% of the population won’t watch it. Watching women’s sport, like cricket and league is like watching the men’s equivalent in slow motion – boring. I respect ladies, but they won’t ever get coverage like the men, simply because they are on par in sport with any E grade level, being played at a local park.I could go to the local park tomorrow and see better. Men find women’s sport boring, sorry.”
In January 2019, a brilliant article written by Richard Hinds was published. It was an article that spoke about media coverage (or lack of) and Women’s Sport. I read the article on Twitter via ABC Grandstand and I was absolutely appalled by the comments. So appalled that I took screen shots of the comments posted (by men) and was compelled to write this article.
The father’s response to his daughter (above), while not an actual conversation, are ACTUAL comments taken directly from multiple individuals that were posted in relation to Richard Hinds article. It is worth noting these comments were made by men (this is where it may get tough for some, but stay with me all the awesome guys reading this – I am not referring to you).
I wondered, if these men had a daughter and she expressed a desire to represent Australia at her chosen sport – is this really the conversation that he would have with her? Is this how they support females in their lives? Are they so insecure about the fact that we currently have multiple women in this country out-performing the men in their equivalent sports, that it makes them feel better about themselves to undermine the incredible achievements of our female athletes, on and off the sporting field. Would they have the courage of their convictions to say such things to the faces of Sam Kerr or Ellyse Perry?
I got to thinking, and the more I thought the more agitated I became, and I realised that it didn’t matter what sort of season Ellyse Perry has, how many awards Sam Kerr wins. It won’t matter whether Stephanie Gilmore wins another world surfing title, or whether the Australian Diamonds Netball team or Australian Women’s Cricket team, (both currently ranked number 1 in the world), win another World Cup, the achievements of these women individually or as a team will never be good enough for some. They still say women are not worthy of better coverage for their sports.
For so long, women have been told that in order to get greater coverage and greater respect in sport they need to be better, be fitter, be faster, be the best – I am here to tell you that women have done ALL the things that were asked of them and more. They have broken through glass ceilings, they have shattered records and they have smashed expectations, a hundred times over -and still it seems, it is not good enough to warrant the coverage that they deserve.
It reaffirms that gut feeling in my stomach that no matter what women do, how good they are, there are people out there who will keep moving the standard of what women in sport need to achieve to get decent coverage. It seems like an invisible measurement tool, or a unicorn that they need to find. That old ‘supply and demand’ comment is as old as time, utterly outdated and serves as nothing more than lip service to a huge legion of female sports fans around the country.
Have these men been watching sport on the television this summer? Between the WBBL, the W-League, Tennis and the Aussie Diamonds Netball team, women athletes have stolen the show. The AFLW has just started, so I encourage you to watch this space.
I am a proud female sports fan. I have supported both men and women’s sport since I was a child. Proudly attending games, buying merchandise, setting alarms for an early morning rise to watch games being played overseas. I also know the pain and incredible agitation that lack of coverage creates because I am a netball fan. To get you up to speed, what this means is that up until a few years ago there was not a lot of coverage, or if there was, (and I am not joking) with 15 minutes left of an international final, the broadcast would simply cut to an old episode of Heartbeat. This is something that happened multiple times. Other favourite moments included (but were not limited to) when the guide would state that a netball game would be televised at a certain time and when the time rolled around an episode of Doctor Who would be on instead – the netball game would just never come on.
Netball in this country has come a long way since I was a little kid, and in the last few years (even though people have been campaigning for many years) we can thank incredible women like Liz Ellis and Sue Gaudion for their unwavering dedication for not only better coverage, but different avenues for which fans get to watch games. The introduction of the Suncorp Super Netball League has been key – it is the best display of talent that netball has to offer. It has risen the profile of the game because the standard of competition is so high. The athletes that play in this league are the very best in the world, they are the ones that the fans pay to go and see, the ones they purchase the Netball Live app for, or buy Telstra TV to watch all the games. Two of the four weekly games are even played live on Channel 9. While Heartbeat episodes certainly do not interrupt broadcast anymore, now our challenge is to secure better time slots and to get all 4 games televised. The advancement of Netball in Australia has been hard fought, extremely hard fought. They have campaigned tirelessly for benefits that men in sport take for granted, things like pay, travel, accommodation – and while change is starting to be felt, women have been training as hard as men, for as long as men, with very different rewards. I grew up living and breathing netball and women like Liz Ellis became my role models. She was incredibly tough, passionate and never gave up, but I was only young and I didn’t understand that women in sport were treated differently.
As a child when I saw Liz Ellis wearing the ‘green and gold’, she was my hero. It was not until many years later when I heard her speak at a NSW Swifts Gala Dinner that I realised just what an incredible hero for the sport she actually was, fighting to get women who played decent pay, and I remember thinking, ‘Why on earth this was not happening already? We are the number one country in the world for Netball!’ Even more remarkable was that for so long these women were doing it for the love of the game, for their own personal satisfaction, for their family and their fans – you want to talk about role models – here they are. The amount of work the people and players associated with the Suncorp Super Netball League put in to make sure that the kids are involved as much as possible is really heartwarming. These little girls will grow up believing they can be and do anything. Every sport has its champion for on and off field brilliance – for netball it really is hard to go past Lizzy Ellis. Brave, uncompromising, passionate
The 2019 International Netball Quad series has just wrapped up. Our Australian Diamonds, ranked world number 1, competed fiercely for the title against New Zealand, South Africa and the current Commonwealth Games Champions, England. While the Australian games were broadcast on 9Gem and the Netball Live App, (you have to pay for the app), fans were lucky to hear about results on the news or radio. The Diamonds won the series and brought the trophy home, again. It was one of the best international Netball tournaments that I have ever watched. The skill level of all the international teams was, for lack of a better word, incredible. You can not doubt the effort and dedication to improvement that teams like South Africa, under the guidance of ex- Australian coach, Norma Plumber have achieved.
Sorry, I digress (Netball gets me as excited as the North Queensland Cowboys!) – my point is, women have supported men in sport since the beginning of time – they have been inspired by male athletes from all different sporting codes and have sat in the crowds and cheered. They have grabbed the remote and watched their heroes break new grounds. They have been dedicated members of sporting clubs and worn their jerseys with pride. Basically, the support of women across all sporting franchises has contributed significantly to the way sport is viewed and how it is broadcast in this country. Our viewership and dedication help to get the coveted, prime time slots of the sports that you love to watch.
So I am asking, all the men out there (the ones who have kept reading long enough and who understand that I am not having a dig at ‘all men’) – I am begging you, support the women in your lives, support their sporting teams, sit down and watch women play sport, go to games of netball, cricket, AFLW, soccer, hockey, basketball, rugby league- do it all. When you see a man on social media lessening the value of what women bring to sport, when you see them blatantly disregarding some of the best athletes this country has, when you hear your friends say ‘women will never be as good as men’, talk to them, educate them, help be part of the change of dialogue and attitude that is so sorely needed. Please do not be quiet on this topic. Stand up and let us hear your support. Show your support by watching on television, going to games and being a member of sporting franchises. I know you support the women in your life and you see the merit in this discussion, because you are still reading along. (You rock!)
It is time that women got a little of that viewership and dedication back in return. Obviously there are awesome men out there. The ones who recognise that Women’s Sport should just be called ‘Sport’ – that we no longer need a title to differentiate what we are watching, enjoying or supporting. Good sport is good sport, good athletes are good athletes, and credit is given where credit is due. It is a pleasure to see those men in our community supporting women, they are the ones who build them up not just in sport, but in life. My partner is the first to admit that he believes Sam Kerr is the best footballer in Australia at the moment. He was the one who suggested I should write this article.
As a like-minded sporting community, we can work together to create change that is long overdue. Women do not want special treatment or expect to get anything for free – what they want is what they have proved they are entitled to – coverage that is an adequate reflection of the level of sportsmanship they have now reached. Women do not need nor are they looking for the approval, but they would love for you to come on the ride with them.
No longer will women accept the bread crumbs that fall off the ‘sporting coverage’ table. They have done enough to warrant more of the main meal, and we have a growing army who will not stop until the media sit sportswomen at the table with the rest of the players.
It is 2019, a new women’s movement has well and truly begun. Get on board with it or be left behind.
We will not be coming back to get you.