Media coverage in sport is an uneven playing field

Irish international cricketer Shauna Kavanagh sat down with The City’s Niamh Haskins to discuss her views on women’s sport coverage.

When a woman steps into the ring, pitch or court representing her club or country, it is one of the most exciting yet challenging tasks she can face. In the history of sport, some of the most incredible success stories came from brave and talented women, who not only faced competition from their opponents, but also battled sexism, discrimination and the constant struggle to be treated equally.

Gender bias is an issue that occurs in many areas of life, but it is extremely prevalent in sports coverage. Internationally, only 10 per cent of all sports coverage is of women’s sports. The most recent Irish analysis by the Dublin Sport and Recreational Council revealed that only 78 out of 6,503 sports photos taken by six national newspapers over a 15 day period were of women. The same study showed that over a five year period only 3% of sports photos were of women.

While coverage is limited, Irish international cricketer Shauna Kavanagh emphasised the need to recognise the improvements that have been made.

“The lack of coverage obviously hinders the growth of women’s sport. But it’s important to recognise the strides that have been made over the years in terms of women’s sport in the media. Coverage has definitely improved. When I was younger I don’t remember many female athletes in the media, all my sporting heroes were male athletes,” she explained.

“Obviously there is still greater coverage of men’s sport in the media and I suppose the impact of that would be young girls wanting to play with boys rather than girls, because they may feel it holds a greater importance.”

Despite the same levels of skill, competition, training and dedication, Shauna argues that there is a lot more interest in male dominated sports.

“The interest in women’s sport is on an upward curve and hopefully it will just continue to grow and result in more coverage. I don’t think so much in the way it’s represented in the media, but rather just the frequency of it … it’s not that the calibre of female athletes has changed, just the publicity [for] them,” Kavanagh explained.

“Generally, I think when female athletes are represented in the media, it’s done so in a positive way. It’s just not done enough. I think Irish women’s sports can assist each other in promoting women’s sports in Ireland, which will keep encouraging the coverage of it.”

Having represented Ireland on more than one occasion, Kavanagh said, “The Irish media has covered events that we have been involved in quite well. Our most recent series against Australia in August was live streamed. This was such a boost for women’s cricket in Ireland. It was the first time Cricket Ireland had broadcast any of the women’s games and it was a great success in terms of the number of views and coverage which it secured.

“It’s Cricket Ireland’s intention to stream as much cricket as possible going forward which will increase the awareness of the game, along with the exposure of women’s cricket within the media.

“The Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifiers are being held in Thailand in November and hopefully the Irish media will get on board and ensure there is plenty of media surrounding the event,” she concluded.

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