In Response To Your Complaint About Women in Sport…
By Sam Squiers
Thank you for your letter, our Sports Editor gave it to me to read as he thought I may find it “interesting”. Interesting yes, and also quite inaccurate. So to assist you to understand the choices in Sports Reporters and Presenters, please let me clarify a few of your statements.
Firstly, you pose the question “why are your sports programmes inundated and now dominated by women?”. Well, women currently make up 50% of the population, take a look around, they’re EVERYWHERE. They’re company directors, CEOs, doctors, lawyers, politicians, even heads of state (the Queen is even female). In the sporting world they’re also club CEOs, administrators, coaches, referees, players and fans. On that last point, did you know that 50% of all members of AFL clubs are female? close to half of all NRL memberships are women? The Women’s game is also the fastest growing area of most football codes as well. Women play sport and play it bloody well. In fact, if it wasn’t for the women at the last Olympics, well, Australia’s medal tally would have been a measly 15, not 35.
Given this information it’s quite obvious why we have women on our sports programs. To us, they’re not women, they’re journalists, professionals and bloody good at their job. They haven’t been plucked off the street because they are a certain gender, they have the sports knowledge, passion and skills to deliver the right analysis and insight from any sports event. But our reporters don’t need to whip out their CVs to prove themselves, their work and success speaks for itself.
Now let’s clear up your statement about women’s sports.You say “scope is limited for women to concentrate on their gender specific (football) game as it does not rate for television. The same applies to all sports with few exceptions”. Women’s rugby league doesn’t rate as highly as men’s rugby league, but it is an emerging force. The recent ANZAC test proved that with strong broadcast figures for Channel 9 who showed it on their main channel for the first time. Even last year, the women’s ANZAC test was broadcast a week after it was played and only in limited states and New Zealand, yet the NRL hit record numbers, it even beat the number of viewers nationally who watch the A-League. This year’s Women’s Big Bash ratings also hit record numbers, more people watched the WBBL than the men’s domestic one day cup games and again it rated higher than the A-League in the same time slot. In tennis, the women’s Australian Open Final rated higher than the Men’s Final and the women’s final of the U.S Open sold out faster than the Men’s Final. We could go on, but in short, people are watching women’s sports, even if you’re not.
I’m sorry you feel that our female reporters shouldn’t be in charge or reporting on sports events because they haven’t “been there and done that”. First of all, many of our female sports reporters have in fact “been there and done that”, they’ve played sport (including rugby league) and been passionate fans their whole lives. As a side note, you may notice that many of the male sports reporters across all news organisations actually haven’t “been there and done that”. Many haven’t played but their opinions hold weight in your eyes just because of their gender – now that doesn’t seem right does it? Also did you know the majority of political reporters have never been politicians? Police reporters, never been police officers? Court reporters never lawyers? Even food critics, never chefs?
Finally, we look forward to 2017 when there are even more women involved in our sports programs and our game. Sport is inclusive, women are a part of society, a part of our game and we’re proud to have the best reporters in the country a part of our sports programs – regardless of gender. This isn’t about being “anti-discriminatory”, as you say, this is about having the best people a part of our team, and we’re confident we do.
But thank you for your letter, it’s actually a good reminder that we still have far to go and the job I’ve set out to achieve with Sportette promoting women in sport, is far from over. You’ve reminded me that change takes time and sometimes generations to turn, but the wheels of change are happening, we’ve just got to make sure the right people are pushing those pedals of change. You say too that you’re a 78 year old female viewer? That’s a reminder too that this kind of gender bias isn’t limited to just men.
Oh, and you asked for this letter to be passed on to our Sports Programmer, I have gone straight to the top and passed it on to the Managing Director of Channel Nine Queensland and, can I say, she was very interested to see it.
Sam Squiers is a Channel 9 Sports Reporter and Presenter and the Founder of Sportette.