15/04/2024

Women in sport deserve higher quality media coverage. (Photos: Victory W-League - Twitter, Origin Diamonds - Twitter, AFLW Website)

Women in sport in Australia consistently get less attention than their male counterparts. How does media coverage contribute to this issue?

Almost every week in the Australian media, women in sport are subject to incorrect attribution, poor coverage and gender inequality that sees male sporting counterparts steal the limelight from their sporting success.

We need to understand that not only does ineffective coverage do detrimental harm to individual athletes, but it also gives people a reason to neglect women’s sport in general.

When our women are compared to men in the same sport, critics are quick to analyse the differences in physicality, game speed and overall viewing entertainment.

But, it’s the little things that the Australian media must get right before we can criticise female athletes who are playing a fundamental role in developing their sport on the national stage.

In order to understand the extent to which women face mediocre media coverage, it’s important to acknowledge that it doesn’t just happen in one sport.

Super Netball

There have been mix-ups all year regarding players names in the Suncorp Super Netball League.

As well as incorrect name attribution, there have been instances where the Netball Live App has crashed right before the start of the game.

Due to the current climate of Australia regarding the pandemic, the inability to watch the start of a netball game has not only burdened players, it has impacted their loved ones too.

After spending years in the Netball Australia pathway, league debutants’ families have been restricted due to technical difficulties.

Netballers have fought for free-to-air broadcasts, but the issue goes much deeper than viewership.

Not only have women across all eight teams flown around the country to keep the season alive, they’ve balanced hotel quarantine, training in masks and tending to young kids too.

Media teams for netball clubs have to fight for a newspaper feature, as many argue netball is not riddled with drug, bubble breach or cheating scandals that would often attract viewers to articles.

When netball is featured, it’s often burdened to a small back-page spread with images that don’t match the names of athletes.

Recently, Paige Hadley of the NSW Swifts was incorrectly attributed as Amy Parmenter, who plays for Giants Netball.

Not only was Hadley incorrectly named, other images in the article showed the NSW Swifts titled the Sydney Swifts, whilst Giants Netball was called GWS Giants.

It’s disappointing to think that athletes who have worked their entire lives to get to where they are, can’t even receive the smallest ounce of accolades through their name.

Not only is Paige Hadley an Australian Diamond, but she’s also one of the most recognised netballers in Australia.

It’s hard to believe you could get her confused with someone else if you have watched her play a game of netball.

But if you dig deeper into this issue, you’ll find that netballers have been experiencing incorrect name attribution this entire year.

W-League

In January, W-League coverage hit a new low when the stream of an Adelaide United vs Melbourne Victory match glitched for 25 seconds, cutting to a man in his bedroom.

People watching the game were then treated to men’s football highlights whilst the issue was being fixed.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for fans to obtain access to W-League, with costly subscriptions among the issues.

Streaming of the W-League has been of a significantly poor standard this year, with other streaming malfunctions taking away from viewers’ ability to watch the game and support the athletes onscreen.

A graphics failure on Canberra United’s clash with Melbourne City saw a large hexagon cover the screen for minutes, blocking the match which continued in the background.

Whilst another stream featured repeated audio and video cut-outs for the first half of Brisbane Roar’s 6-0 win over Melbourne Victory.

If you compare the coverage of the W-League to the A-League, you’ll struggle to understand why women’s coverage is so unsatisfactory.

With more than 1.8 million Australians playing football nationwide, there is certainly demand for both quality streaming of female and male games.

But the same issues evident in W-League streams are absent in the A-League coverage.

AFLW

The AFLW coverage this year has shown that not only is the game facing a lack of adequate coverage, the award ceremonies that celebrate our female athletes’ success is cut short too.

This year, there were an insignificant amount of cameras at the games, which often fell miserably short in displaying the talent on field.

If you recall, there were many instances where long camera shots made it hard to see what was occurring on-field.

At the AFLW Awards, coverage was split with AFL360, leaving viewers perplexed as to why the show, which would be replayed later in the evening, featured in the middle of the medal count.

Not only was the AFLW Awards coverage cut short, there was another unsatisfactory attribution evident for Grace Egan, who received seven votes and was amongst the best three Carlton players most weeks of the season.

Why it’s Important

You may be thinking, ‘people don’t watch women’s sport as much as they do men’s, so why’s it matter?’

It matters because to get people to watch female sports, the basics must be perfected before a larger audience is targeted.

Whilst names are wrongly attributed and streaming is ineffective, female athletes will not receive proper recognition, nor will their sport ever receive equivalent coverage.

Female athletes put in the same work, the same sacrifice and follow the same rules, yet we hold male sporting media standards to a higher degree than we do female.

This is more than the gender equality debate, it’s a request for female athletes to receive the bare minimum.

Australian women in sport need to be recognised and provided with high-quality coverage before we can even compare them to their male counterparts.

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