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Women hit the headlines in sport – why aren’t there more writing about it?

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Suzanne Franks – www.theguardian.com

Two weeks of Olympic coverage are a rare time when sustained coverage of female sports stars hits the headlines. The airwaves are full of women running, jumping, cycling and riding.

Yet outside the period of major sporting festivals, evidence from the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation suggests that only 5% of total sports coverage relates to activities by women.

Women’s sport attracts a tiny proportion of the total sponsorship and, as is well known, the salaries and facilities are minuscule by comparison to men’s.

Yet it is not just women playing sport which is ignored, but women reporting and writing about it. In 2012 and 2013, my colleague Deidre O’Neill and I looked at bylines across UK newspapers and found that at no point in any of the periods we examined was the proportion of female bylines higher than 3%.

There were occasions where the female contribution on one newspaper for one week reached just over 4% (at the Guardian and the Daily Mail), but the averages were well below this.

Over all the periods we studied the average proportion of stories written by women was a mere 1.8%.

We have followed that survey up with interviews with the handful of female sports journalists in the UK’s national press and found that things appear to be changing at a glacial pace, if at all.

As the Sun’s Vikki Orvice said at a recent London Press Club event on getting into sports journalism:

“I thought when I started out in tabloids in 1995, there would be a trajectory of women starting to emerge in sports writing, but it has not been the case at all. In fact, it has got worse … Women in sports writing peaked in 2000 … The only females at the Sun are me and two secretaries.”

In recent years there has been some considerable progress regarding the visibility of women in broadcast sports journalism. The London Olympics and the starring role of presenters such as Clare Balding and Gabby Logan was a watershed for UK broadcasting, but there are still relatively few female sports writers in the newspaper industry, and sports journalism worldwide remains largely male-dominated.

Several of the reporters we spoke to raised the link between participation in sport and reporting it. Laura Williamson, who writes for the Daily Mail pointed out that a traditional route into reporting on sport is by playing it at top level:

“Fewer women have grown up with or played sport to the level where they might be encouraged to report on it.”

And, along with a number of other interviewees, she pointed out that the popularity of football can limit reporting opportunities for women:

“Men’s football is the dominant sport – and it is played, managed and run by men. This makes it more difficult for a young women to build contacts and network, simply because she belongs to a different demographic [there has never been a female chief football correspondent]. And the readership of sports media is overwhelmingly male, so they are more likely to regard sports reporting as a dream job.”

Martha Kelner, who writes for the Mail and was young sports writer of the year in 2012, agreed: “It’s more natural for men. [Lots of boys] want to be a footballer, and if they don’t make it, they may want to stay close to the sport by writing about it. Because fewer girls play football, this possibility is unlikely to even be on their radar.”

In addition, in the UK we have only seen women’s football taken more seriously and given better media coverage in the past couple of years. However, the popularity of women playing football has markedly increased at the same time. With the growing professionalisation of the women’s game, it is possible we may in future see more women who have played coming through as football sports journalists.

Alison Kervin’s appointment in 2013 at the Mail on Sunday as the first (and only) female sports editor of a UK national newspaper was a milestone. Around half of national newspaper sports desks have no women.

Kervin agrees with other female sports writers that there are still challenges which prevent more women breaking through, although she thinks things have improved since she first started and would file her reports from rugby matches as A Kervin, because she knew that using her first name would put editors off.

Yet she may have been unduly optimistic. Last year one of my students, a long-time rugby enthusiast called Andrea, applied for a paid internship reporting on the Rugby World Cup. In her application she called herself Andy and when she was appointed and then showed up, the editor of the site was visibly shocked to find she was not a man.

After her internship was over he told her that he had been pleasantly surprised at how good she had been – with the obvious implication that this was in spite of her gender.

Several women sports writers, such as Janine Self or Amy Lawrence, highlighted annoying attitudes which still persist. Other reporters emphasised the problem of declining local and regional papers, offering fewer entry roles for sports reporting, as well as the highly unsociable hours worked by sports reporting as off putting towomen.

Particularly worrying is the way that female sports journalists are treated on social media. As elsewhere they face sustained abuse not because of what they write, but because of who they are.

Frequent comments include “Get back in the kitchen” or much worse. Martha Kelner worries that things have deteriorated on Twitter:

“I have been called a slag and told I don’t know what I’m doing because I’m a woman. It’s more common when I write about (male dominated) football than a sport like athletics … There are people in darkened rooms spoiling for a fight. We may not get more online abuse than men, but it can be more vitriolic and insulting and our gender is often the first port of call for someone sending an abusive tweet.”

This atmosphere could be a further deterrent to aspiring female sportswriters. Yet despite such hurdles, at City University’s department of journalism we teach modules on sports reporting and an encouraging number of women take this class.

Many of them show boundless enthusiasm for sports writing of all kinds – from boxing to badminton. We are hoping to see their bylines on the back pages (and equivalent) before too long.

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Kirby Called up, King Overlooked for WI World Cup Camp

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ST. JOHN’S, Antigua– Deandra Dottin has been named with twenty other players by Cricket West Indies’ Selection Panel, for a pre-world cup camp from January 6-25 in Antigua to finalise their preparations for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.

Deandra returns to West Indies Women’s duty after shoulder surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation period, which ensured her full recovery and availability for the team. Captain Stafanie Taylor, who missed the T20 International series against the visiting Indian Women’s team in November, will also be returning, along with bowlers Shamilia Connell and Shakera Selman.

CWI’s Women’s and Girls Head Selector, Ann Browne-John said, “The panel has selected a squad showing a mix of youth and experience in preparation for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup. The recently concluded Women’s Franchise Tournament in Trinidad also gave the panel an opportunity to view the players in a T20 setting just prior to the World Cup.”

Browne- John added, “Deandra Dottin seemed to return right where she left off before her injury and had remarkable performances from the first match. Shamilia Connell and Shakera Selman are also returning from injury and the panel hopes that by the time the final selection is to be made for the World Cup, all players will be fit and ready.”

The pre-world cup camp is scheduled from January 6-25, during which the final squad for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup will be selected before departure to Australia. The ICC Women’s T20 World Cup will take place between February 21 and March 8.

The 21-member Training Camp Squad:

  1. Stafanie Taylor
  2. Deandra Dottin
  3. Shamilia Connell
  4. Hayley Matthews
  5. Aaliyah Alleyne
  6. Shakera Selman
  7. Sheneta Grimmond
  8. Kaysia Schultz
  9. Shabika Gajnabi
  10. Cherry Ann Fraser
  11. Shemaine Campbelle
  12. Chinelle Henry
  13. Natasha McLean
  14. Chedean Nation
  15. Shawnisha Hector
  16. Anisa Mohammed
  17. Lee Ann Kirby
  18. Karishma Ramharack
  19. Caneisha Isaac
  20. Britney Cooper
  21. Afy Fletcher

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Secondary School students to play alongside National/WI Players in exhibition match

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The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s Cricket Association (TTWCA) will be engaging Secondary School cricketers in an exhibition match ahead of its Courts Grand Slam Women’s T20 Franchise Tournament. The match will take place on Saturday, November 30, from 2pm at the National Cricket Centre. 

The match will see the young secondary school students playing on teams alongside national players, who will be competing in the Courts Grand Slam from December 3 to 13. Eight (8) school girls and six (6) Franchise players will form each team. Students will get to interact with and play alongside WI players such as Reneice Boyce, Karishma Ramharack and Britney Cooper as well as a number of T&T players. They will also have the opportunity to interact with other non playing WI and T&T players such as Anisa Mohammed. 

This initiative by the TTWCA is a step towards bridging the gap between Secondary School cricketers, club cricket and national cricket. 

“We would like to create a pathway from schools cricket all the way up to the national team and this is one of the initiatives we are having to do that,” said Ann Browne John, Vice President of the TTWCA and CWI Head Women and Girls Selector. “We are seeing the development of the women’s game locally, we are playing our part in various ways, and we want young girls entering the world of women’s cricket, to know that there is a national team and who are the national and WI players they can emulate and look up to.” 

Browne-John noted that local clubs will also be present as they hope to encourage more girls to join clubs. 

The TTWCA recently wrapped up a High Performance camp for U17 players which included a number of outstanding players who also compete in the Secondary Schools Cricket League and have included an U19 spot on all Franchise teams to ensure that young players are exposed to cricket at a high level. 

“We see cricket rapidly evolving globally; the ICC has indicated the introduction of a women’s U19 World Cup in the future, women’s cricket will be included in the 2022 Commonwealth Games and we intend to make the Courts GrandSlam an international event eventually, so we want to increase our pool of players, while preparing them to take advantage of the many opportunities being created everyday.”

Some of the schools which will participating in the match include Holy Faith Convent, Couva, Holy Name Convent POS, St Joseph’s Convent, Barrackpore Secondary and Iere High School.

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ICYMI: $25,000 up for grabs, Courts increases investment

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ICYMI: $25,000 up for grabs, Courts increases their investment, LCB central Sharks issues challenge to other teams, Stacy-Ann King hopes to build franchise fan base and the TTWCA plans to make Franchise League international

The Courts Women’s T20 GrandSlam Franchise Tournament was launched yesterday, with many announcements, challenges, and expectations being mentioned by those lauding the start of the 3rd edition of the tournament which bowls off from December 3 to 13.

Courts Corporate Social Responsibility Regional Officer, Nicole Loney-Mills, announced an increase in the company’s investment in the tournament while also commending the TTWCA for the continued growth of the event:

“This is a significant moment for us as we celebrate the evolution of women’s cricket. It is also our pleasure to announce that this year, our investment totals $100,000. We have had a long and fruitful relationship with the cricket fraternity and this partnership further pushes the envelope for continued development of sport to new heights. More importantly I see this as an investment in building our people and our community. At Unicomer, we are very passionate and committed about the development of our people and we extend this value to our business partners, key stakeholders and communities we support through our various public relations and corporate social responsibility initiatives. 

It is also our hope that the Courts T20 Franchise Tournament will serve as a platform for changing the game to encourage greater participation by our female cricketers. Through this avenue we will be able to identify new talent that could represent not only Trinidad and Tobago but West Indies cricket on the International stage at the highest level of competition.” – Nicole Loney-Mills 

WI all-rounder, Stacy Ann King encouraged fans to come out and support while also speaking about the establishment of franchise merchandise to further boost a fan base:

“The opportunity to develop a high level of professionalism that will contribute the the continued development of women’s cricket throughout the region, is one of the first and foremost aims of this event. We also embrace the prospect of establishing our own respective franchise fan base through the use of replica t-shirts and support via social media. The players are very appreciative of this continued support by the TTWCA, CWI and MSYA, Courts, the franchise holders; Trident Sports Phoenix, LCB Contractors, UDECOTT, and all the other sponsors who have shown faith in the development of local and regional women’s cricket.” – Stacy-Ann King, West Indies all-rounder and captain of the Phoenix Sports Tridents.

Manager of the LCB Central Sharks, Ian Telfer encouraged more sponsors to invest in the women’s game while issuing a challenging tot he other franchise teams on behalf of the LCB Central Sharks:

“These ladies are professionals in every sense of the word. Those of you don’t come, who find it inconvenient, you missed it. You missed some incredible moments in sport. Our girls give of their best, come on, can’t we even give them part of our best, can’t we show some support? I manage the LCB Central Sharks, we are the defending champions and I am challenging every other team; “come and get us.” The target is on our back, we know, we were the underdogs last year, we know that you all are coming for us this year, and I want to say one thing; “We will be glad to meet you, we will be even happier to greet you and then we will be glad to beat you.” – Ian Telfer, Manager of the LCB Central Sharks

CWI Head Women and Girls Selector and TTWCA Vice President, Ann Browne-John shared the Association’s plans for bigger and better things in the future, including making the event international:

“When this tournament was started three years ago, I don’t think any of us anticipated how it would grow. But the brand of cricket the girls have played over the past two years has made this tournament start to grow from strength to strength. And the is evident in the fact that this year, we are going to have every West Indian player who is not injured and that’s just about two injuries, but all the other top WI players are going to be present in this tournament. 

This franchise tournament has been placed on the Cricket West Indies Calendar for the next 2 years. When we started this tournament it was primarily  because the TTWCA is committed to the development of girls and women in the country and we have tried to show that commitment yearly through our leagues, which include a 50 over league for the premiership and a 30 over league for the Championship development, a T20 tournament, a T10 Tournament, we run a Regional U19 tournament which CWI has also come on board with us for that now and our plan is to grow this tournament, not just local, not just regional, but soon to have an international flavour. We know it will cost money and we will have to plan for it but that is how we would like to go.” – Ann Brown John, CWI Head Women and Girls Selector and Vice President of the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s Cricket Association.

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