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Body of evidence

Gordon Farquhar | 12:00 UK time, Monday, 6 July 2009

The report by the Commission on the Future of Women's Sport throws up a series of statistics that demand further examination, not just the headline fact that only one in five of those on the boards of our sporting governing bodies is a woman, and that a quarter of them don't have women on the board at all... (among them football, cycling and rugby union.)

Delve a little deeper, and there are several more arresting numbers. More than 80% of women, it is claimed, do too little physical activity to benefit their health. That's shocking.

England celebrate their limited overs international series win against Australia

Here's another: women's elite sport still only attracts 2% of sports media coverage.

That's a statistic produced by the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation in a recently published survey of the media.

It looked at the back pages on three separate days in March 2007, and discovered that on average, for every single article written about women's sport, there were 53 about men, and only 1% of all images in the pages of national newspapers were devoted to female athletes and women's sport (that would've been a lot higher if they'd looked at the red-tops during Wimbledon fortnight, but perhaps that's another story for another day).

Venus and Serena Williams win the Wimbledon women's doubles

The argument made at the time by the foundation is that young girls just like boys, need role models, and apart from the brainless portrayal of the wives and girlfriends (WAGS) as vapid clothes-horses, they're not seeing enough women in the sports media, and that includes on television and sports internet sites.

In the same survey, they looked at Sky Sports for a day: 72 hours of programming, three of them for women's sport. Of 10 sports news websites looked at, there were 367 links from the front page to articles, just five of which went to female sports, with not one image of a woman on the front pages of any of them.

Clearly, there's an imbalance throughout the structure of sport, and it's hard to disagree with the commission's concern in its latest findings, that this is threatening to lead to a huge missed opportunity ahead of the 2012 Olympics in London.

Victoria Pendleton, Kelly Sotherton

The women's sports market is the sector with the greatest potential for growth, but without more women in the boardroom, are those opportunities going to be seized? I guess the answer is no, if the status quo remains, so how to change things?

The urgings of such luminaries as Lord Triesman, the chairman of the Football Association, Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, the chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, Lord Coe, Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe and his shadow Hugh Robertson, at least reflect that fact that some have woken up and smelled the coffee.

All have spoken in support of the commission and its work: less encouraging is the report's own sober assessment of the barriers that still stand in the way: existing leaders reluctant to embrace change and foster female talent: institutionalised structures and recruitment processes: sport's 'macho' and inhospitable culture, and a vicious circle of under-representation.

Enlightenment is required, sport needs to look to the commercial world for best practice, and start making change a priority, not a dirty word.


  • Comment number 1.

    Maybe, as a public sector broadcaster, the BBC could lead the way. On the BBC Sport home page at the moment there are 12 photos featuring men and zero featuring women.

  • Comment number 2.

    "I guess the answer is no, if the status quo remains, so how to change things?"

    Why doesn't the BBC do something about it? You have taken delight in knocking Sky and the red tops but I see little or no contribution from the BBC. Indeed Sky even sponsor our cycling team which contains some of our best female athletes and have given excellent coverage to the womens cricket team.

    Eurosport and ITV use the same video feed for their cycling coverage and merely provide their own commentators. A very cheap option - it must be given the state of ITV finances. Could the BBC not do something similar with womens cycling? (Dare I say it could possibly cost less than the BBC's annual pension contribution for one or two executives!!).

    Our ladies football team did rather well in the recent world cup. Where were the BBC?

    I must say you provide excellent text coverage of many sports (keep up the good work Ben Dirs, Caroline Cheese, Tom Fordyce etc) .

  • Comment number 3.

    I count 9 to 2 for the pictures. All the money, advertising, interest and excitement in sport is in men. Who can name the 100m women world record holder or Olympic champion? I cannot and I do not care. Usain Bolt though .. wow. It is the FASTEST MAN that matters.

    Sport is not about being PC, it is about audiences and entertainment. Women and men generally find male sports more entertaining. Some sports are equally entertaining, but are low profile. During the Olympics they become high profile. But rugby, cricket and football are the national sports, will consume 95% of the media, and be 95% dominated by interest in the male version.

  • Comment number 4.

    Do they not already have Eastenders?? Can't give them sport too!!

  • Comment number 5.

    Coverage is in direct response to interest from the public. The reality is that the public as a whole are more interested in male sports and the coverage reflects this.

  • Comment number 6.

    In reply to blog no.3:- I'm a man, my favourite sport is football, and virtually all the football I watch on TV is men's football; so I fit your national stereotype. But is this because when I was young all the football on TV and in the papers was men's football?

    I have 2 sons and a daughter and I've watched them all play junior football in local leagues for many years. The girl's football is just as exciting as the boy's football (although it's less aggressive). Men's football has much more coverage in the media because historically sport was for men, and it's self-perpetuating. Children growing up today see mainly men's sport in the media, so they will follow men's sport when they are adults - this is not because men's sport is more entertaining, it's the historical legacy of sport originally being for men.

    To take the Usain Bolt example - if you watched the men's and women's 100m races without knowing which was which, I don't think you'd find one more exciting than the other. It's the media hype surrounding them which makes the difference.

  • Comment number 7.

    This article doesn't identify who watches the sports and reads the articles in newspapers etc. The target audience is generally male as there is a greater interest in sport from men. In order to change the amount of attention given to female sports stars male opinions will need to be changed but that is unlikely.

    For games such as football, cricket and rugby the quality and pace of the game is lower and that is purely due to the number of participants in sport. There are significantly more male participants than female leading to better quality sport.

    Changing the amount of press should happen but only with an improvement in quality of the sport played and greater public interest from many women that don't like watching sport or watching competitive action.

    The Olympics is a good example of women shown more evenly with female stars treated almost equally with male stars. Chris Hoy stole the show at the last Olympics because he achieved something special in the Olympics. However, I still remember the attention Pendleton got, the Sailing trio received and Ohurugu received (despite the protests of some anti-drugs campaigners).

  • Comment number 8.

    Is it a chicken and egg thing? Is there little coverage of womens sport, because in general women aren't that interested in sport, or are women not that interested because there is little coverage? I'm sure TV companies would show more womens sport if they beleived they'd get the viewing figures to justify it, and if it's on TV, the sports writers will write about it.

  • Comment number 9.

    There are many parents out there encouraging their girls to play sport. What we do compete against is the female stereotypes encouraged by society from a very young age - 9 year olf alpha females already on the verge of being teenage WAGS.

    But our children thankfully enjoy their sport. We were watched a great set of role models in the England women's team at Wormsley on Sunday and our middle daughter admire rebecca adlington as her swimming role model too.

    It is down to us as individuals to overcome these barriers....

  • Comment number 10.

    What a load of sweeping statements! Women aren't interested; men's sport more interesting; women don't watch sport?

    What a load of rubbish - where is the evidence that a)women don't watch sport; b) they're not interested in it; c)the audience isn't there?

    I would love to watch more sport not just women's but all types but am limited to what is available - mainly men playing rugby, football or cricket. And how can you say that the men's game is of a better quality - how many world champions do you have?? It appears that the women are delivering the medals and honours at the moment - not the men!

    How can we inspire the younger generation to take part in sport when all they see and read about are overpaid male footballers not performing on the pitch, being arrested or coming out of nightclubs drunk?

    I love watching the olympics because it is the only time I can watch any sport I like. Perhaps the BBC could release viewing figures for the different sports during the olypics to gauge which sports are the most popular before assuming that only male dominated sports will be watched.

  • Comment number 11.

    Its so nice for this site to have reported on our females sports peoples success at the world university games, or the womens british gymnastics champs last weekend.

    Its rubbish that the results of womens sports are not reported in even the smallest way, how can females go into sport when they get no recognition at all.

  • Comment number 12.

    It all boils down to the portrayal of sport in the media.
    If more womens sport was shown on tv, more people would watch and then more collumn inches would be devoted to the women in the press.

    As womens sport costs less to buy than mens sport, because less currently watch it, would it not make financial sense for the BBC to purchase rights and show some of the sports.
    You could even claim that you're doing it in the name of equality ;)

  • Comment number 13.

    Why is this article written by a man?

  • Comment number 14.

    Why is the article about Ronaldo written by a woman?

  • Comment number 15.

    Why does a blog about the Michael Owen transfer get 400 postings in the first six hours, but a blog which questions the level of interest in women's sport gets a dozen postings (not including mine) in twenty-four hours?

  • Comment number 16.

    This is how it works at present.
    Mens football (Association not Rugby) is a massive business and the Premiership is a massive brand. In order to sustain this, mens football brilliantly manages the brand such that a lot of people think its important. The media, really only interested in viewing/readership figures, play along with this and give mens football the majority of sports coverage. The mens football supporter pays for it.
    While this persists other sports will always be at best treated as second class. The only window open to other sports is a few short weeks during the summer and even this window is seriously eroded in even numbered years because of mens football World Cup and European Cup.
    Wouldnt it be truly wonderful if the publicly funded BBC started a new sports radio station that covered all sports, male and female in equal measure, EXCEPT mens football. After all, in Radio 5 Live and 5 Live Sports Xtra we have BBC radio stations that serve up saturation coverage of mens football already.

  • Comment number 17.

    Top prize money winners at Wimbledon:

    1. Serena Williams
    2. Roger Federer
    3. Venus Williams
    4. Andy Roddick

    We won't go into hours played, audience size, etc. Where women's sport lives directly off men's sport, women do REALLY well out of the "equality" nonsense. Any quango which has the word "Equality" attached to its name exists not to promote equality in any rational or balanced sense: it exists to promote advantages for specific groups of people.

    Women's sport, set directly alongside the men's equivalent, is a vastly inferior version of the same thing. Perhaps the best is more attractive to a watching audience? It's just a thought.

    There we go. That'll get a few responses. You should hit twenty postings by Friday.

    There's no charge.

  • Comment number 18.

    There are plenty of ways to view both mens and womens sports even if they are the minority sports. I for one enjoy the Biathlon in the winter and the BBC's coverage is pitiful at best. They might put the result up and that's it. But I go on the internet and can see it live on the official website without paying or Eurosport do a good job but as that's pay TV I don't watch it. Also the womens events are just as exciting as the mens if not more so.

    I would have to agree that it's down to the BBC and other broadcasters and media to build it up with the sports themselves. The BBC's skiing is dominated by the mens races but we have more women that are near the top of their sport but instead of showing that in depth they decided to waste money to two has beans going off challenging each other. It's a sports program and not a holiday or adventure one. I'm sure that if the BBC or ITV did a 10 year deal for some of womens sports they could then build up the brand and then maybe sell it on if or when it got popular and take a share.

    You have womens Champions League football this year and the final is in the same city as the mens but will either the BBC, ITV or Sky show the Arsenal Ladies play their matches even if it's just on the websites or on the digital channels via the red button!!

    But the fact of the matter is that the mens sport will always attract more support and advertising and even in the summer still over 50% of it is about football as the papers are spreading rumours about what team is buying what player.

    You also have to doubt some of the statistics as they only check over a few days. If it was during Wimbledon last year we had a lot in the paper about Laura Robson and the London Marathon would be Paula Radcliffe but as people have said the media are only concerned with a few sports. Long gone is Grandstand or World of Sport where they should minority sports like canoeing, cycling or shooting even if were just highlights from a championship from a week or two before.

    If it is shown they don't actually advertise it either as one weekend I was channel hopping and came across a world cup rowing event.

  • Comment number 19.

    Money drives sport. Money (by and large) comes from TV revenue, sponsorship and advertising. These revenues are all driven by viewers and spectators and the reality is that male sports deliver these viewers and spectators in much greater numbers than female sports. This interest is what drives the coverage.

    Now, the reasons for the significantly greater interest in male sports may well stem from historical or cultural biases that also produce the irrelevant arguments over differences in the quality of the sports or visual spectacles.

    The challenge is for women's sports to drive interest in their games and create fans of their games. By increasing the numbers of fans and followers of their games, they will drive media coverage.

    If you look at Golf and Tennis, these are two areas across the world where there is considerable interest and coverage in the women's tours. This has been achieved by marketing, development and promotion.

    Other areas where this has been achieved in individual countries would the WNBA and women's soccer. These sports have made huge progress but still have work to do.

    Virtually all of the main sports played by either men or women have significant numbers of female participants, it is up to the sports themselves to drive their own sport forward and not for governments to legislate on or quangos to complain about coverage.

  • Comment number 20.

    The problem for women's sport is that ultimately the thrill of sport is about watching the best of the best compete - and in most sports, biology dictates that the best will always be a man. Usain Bolt is not the fastest man in the world, he is the fastest person in the world - that's what matters. Roger Federer is not the best male tennis player in the world, he is the best tennis player in the world. If you know that Federer would beat Serena in straight sets every time he played her, then her status will always be less than his.

    In sports where the physical differences don't count, for instance show jumping, women do just as well and have just as high a profile as the men.

    But the bottom line is it's not about prejudice or discrimination - its about who is highest, furthest, fastest and strongest - and as long as it is always a man, male sport will always be the pinacle.

  • Comment number 21.

    Good suggestions from @freddawlanen and @LahdarBheinn regarding the BBC coverage - there has been a noticable improvement in what's available on all broadcasters, but the amount of resources dedicated to the women's game still lag behind. For instance, what about the T20 world cup?! The English women's cricket team performed amazingly with some really exciting matches at the same venues as the men - but we still didn't get any coverage beyond a few reports.

    Alright, the mens game will get greater interest because of saturation in the rest of the media - that doesn't mean people are not interested. There's a great opportunity for the BBC to help develop this market - just as they did with the broadcasting of mens sport.

  • Comment number 22.

    One thing I do commend the BBC Sport website on is the number of women covering the various sports, such as Caroline Cheese and Sarah Holt. They are not limited to so-called female sports, but also cover F1 and football etc. Others could follow that example.

  • Comment number 23.

    All sports get the coverage they deserve. This nonesense that women's sport is treated less than mens is just that....NONESENSE.

    Take womens football and the whinging they do about lack of sponsorhip, coverage etc, there is a reason for it and that is it is pathetic! The mens game developed over a hundred years into the professional game that it is now. What do the women want? A full time professional game without building up the infrastructure below it at amateur level. There are more female hockey teams than football teams, vastly more but there is no desire to have hockey at a professional level in the mens or womens game.

    I'm not interested in watching womens sports because tehy are always inferior to their male counterpart. Athletics, name me one example where women and men compete at the same events where the female time/distance/weight is better than their male counterparts. Why watch second string events? 100 metres perfect example, sport is all about speed, Usain Bolt 9.69, woman? Don't know her name but over a second slower. Tennis...Serena Williams, dominate in the womens game would struggle to beat any guy in the top 200. They play less and get paid the same, madness. The mens game is the draw proven by the fact that it is only when the mens/womans tournaments run together that the women get equal prize money. When they hold their seperate ATP/WTP tournaments, winnings for women attractic less sponsorship because nobody is interested!

    For equality lets force women to compete at Wimbledon/Olympics with the men. This won't happen because all the crybaby women wouldn't win anything or even come close.

    It is a cruel world but having said that I'm not very good at domestic house work where as my wife is!

  • Comment number 24.

    Before too many more bloggers claim that women's sport is inferior to men's, at least consider the following.
    What do you mean by 'inferior' ?
    How do you measure 'inferior' ?
    Is it maybe Success, Grace, Speed, Skill, Strength, Endurance, Style, Representation and I could go on.
    If its Success - then presumably the Men's England Cricket team is inferior to the Women's England Cricket Team rather than visa versa.
    If its Skill then presumably the fact that the Women's England Cricket Team hit the stumps more often when throwing in than the men's means the Men's England Cricket team is inferior.
    If its Grace or Style then presumably Ellyse Perry (Australian Cricketer) having a far more stylish and graceful delivery action than Steve Harmison means that Steve Harmison is inferior.
    If its Strength and Endurance then presumably Zara Phillips winning Championships against the male riders means those male riders are inferior. Or perhaps Hayley Turner doing the same in Horse Racing.
    In summary, lets have a more meaningful and knowledge based discussion here.

  • Comment number 25.

    I cite the American college system as a perfect way to increase the interest in female sports. The American college leagues are light-years beyond anything we have in place here in the UK.
    It seems in almost all sports here in the UK one must make a choice between becoming a professional athlete or getting a university education. This leads to kids going to university in the UK feeling sport was simply something you did in PE class an hour a week in high-school. The binge-drinking culture thrives and our physical well-being suffers.
    Going back to the US system, outstanding college athletes are offered the chance to become professionals on conclusion of their studies. In fact in most sports in America, a player won't even be considered by professional teams if they haven't played to a high level in college.
    Women in particular have the chance to go on to play professionally in football (or "soccer" to any yanks among you), softball and basketball to name but a few. Female sports (college, professional and even high-school) are given a huge amount of air-time on US television from the bigger networks right down to the local cable channels.
    Such opportunities breed competition and pride amongst girls playing in the college leagues. Guys and girls from a particular college will attend both male and female sporting events in which their team is playing. Consequently a number of both sexes will continue to watch female sports once they have finished college.
    This is in stark contrast to most people in the UK who will remark at the women's FA Cup or women's World Cup being televised as something which is rarely seen and in some cases of little interest (not my opinion I assure you). Perhaps if there were more competitive leagues at university level given more air-time on UK television interest would grow accordingly.

  • Comment number 26.

    Does the media reflect the public interest or the public the media interest?
    The easiest way to alienate the public from any sport, is for the media to force feed it to the public.

    As womens sport would be cheaper to cover than the mens version, the beeb should be the first to dedicate a channel to it. Heres another idea for you, you could rotate womens sport with wheelchair/parasporting events on a purpose made olympic channel, promoting the ladies and the para sports and ironing out broadcasting hitches before the games...Thank me later...

  • Comment number 27.

    'The problem for women's sport is that ultimately the thrill of sport is about watching the best of the best compete'...

    I disagree. In football many fans support teams that aren't the best, so not everybody starting to follow football in England (or even in Manchester) supports Manchester United. If people are prepared to support Manchester City rather than Stockport County Ladies then it's probably because Manchester City have a lot more exposure in the media, or for historical reasons (their parents support them), not because they're more entertaining to watch.

  • Comment number 28.

    The problem is that, when it comes down to it, most women's sports are very similar to the men's game but not quite as good, and the average person would (I imagine) most of the time want to see the highest quality sports matches, unless they have some personal attachment e.g. they know some of the people competing.
    Asking why men's sport gets a lot more coverage than women's is like asking why the premiership gets a lot more coverage than the championship (to use football as an example), or why the best teams in the premiership are on TV more often than the other teams.
    Having said that I think women's sport probably deserves a little more coverage than it gets, but equal coverage in my opinion would be crazy unless participation was at least on a comparable level.

  • Comment number 29.

    #23 you're an idiot.

  • Comment number 30.

    I think PE teachers have a lot to answer for. I have always been keen on sport but girls PE was not taken seriously. Half our school hockey team didn't even now the rules & the teachers made no attempt to teach them. I was treated like a freak because I was competitive & was prepared to run myself into the ground to win. I've also been told off for sledging a batter during a cricket match (if commenting that they were lucky to still be 'in', counts as sledging) & for pointing a particularly annoying batter back to the pavilion, after I'd eventually got them out. I far prefered playing sport with the boys & only gave up playing football, against lads, when at age 18 the difference in pace meant that I could no longer compete.
    As for women's sport not being as exciting as men's sport, because women aren't as strong or as fast as men; Frank Bruno would have flattened Barry McGuigan but that doesn't make him a better boxer. Quite often women athletes are technically better than men because they cannot use brute strength to compensate for poor technique. You cannot compare women's football with men's as the men are full time professionals, who've been coached from a young age, whereas the women are amatuer. Many armchair sportmen will never give women's sport credit because they like to delude themselves that if Usain Bolt can run faster than any women, & John Terry can kick someone harder, then so can they. Usain Bolt is only 10% faster than the women's olympic champion, & at least women footballers don't abuse the officials, cheat constantly & spit all the time.
    Finally, I've noticed that the BBC cameras, during world cups, zoom in on pretty young Brazilian & Swedish girls, whereas the men, the cameras zoom in on, are bald, tattood, beer bellies on legs!

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree with Nick (#18) in that the statistic saying only 2% of sports coverage was for women could be wildly skewed. A study based on 3 days in March 2007 does not have a big enough sample in my eyes. And how many papers did they study?

    Women's sport gets the majority of its coverage when it is shown alongside men's sport. We have seen this in the last two weeks at Wimbledon and on a larger scale at the Olympics. The ICC have recognised this and schedulled the Womens T20 Cricket World Cup to run alongside the men's. The women's semi-finals were played at the ground before the men's. This greatly improved the stadium audience but was also promoted quite widely by Sky.

    I think other women's sports should follow this model. Could the women's Champions League final be played the day before the men's? Or could it be played just before the men's but at a different ground? Or maybe copy the cricket model and play it at the same ground before the men's final?

  • Comment number 32.

    I remember watching a channel 4 programme about roller hockey. Every person interviewed was male. All the footage shown was of men, but there was a banner scrolling across the bottom of the page giving extra info. After a long list of stuff about mens' roller hockey it said "Women play to......England are world champions". Says it all.

  • Comment number 33.

    And you BBC Sport are actually worse than the newspapers you shamed in the article. I just counted 47 links to articles on the front page of the BBC Sport website. And guess how many there were concerning women athletes?????

    1!!! 1 article!!!!! Do you know how many were about horses? 1 aswell.

    BBC Sport currently has as many articles about women ont he front page as it does horses.

  • Comment number 34.

    I'm a Finn who lived in the UK for nearly 10 years, but currently living in Brazil. One of the very first "cultural differences" I noticed after moving to Brazil in 2006 was that women's sport gets much more coverage and attention here than in Europe. And this is not just around Olympics or, say, Wimbledon. They regularly have, for example, live women's volleyball games on TV; both international games (even games that do not involve the Brazilian national team) as well as games from the national league. In the beginning I remember - to my shame - literally asking "why are they showing this stuff at prime time?"... But the result of the greater coverage of women's sport is that a number of female atheletes are household names here and I would imagine that more money goes to women's sport thanks to all the media coverage (although that is by no means certain, of course). So it is clear, like somebody else already suggested, that broadcasters like the BBC could really make a big difference for women's sport and how they are seen/valued by the public.

    Although I now advocate for more coverage for women's sport, I still don't believe in 100% equality on men's and women's sport. Take Wimbledon for example: women's semi-finals hardly attracted much attention (I understand that Centre Court was nearly empty during the second semi-final), but the men's semi-finals were hugely popular. And the same distribution of interest goes for every round of the tournament in fact. That and the fact that women play best of 3 while men play best of 5 set matches makes it difficult to justify why women should be, or are, paid as much as men.

    So I believe there should be a push for more coverage for women's sport, but eventually it should be down to the public what they want to see and where they want their money invested. The conundrum at the moment, of course, is that with very little coverage people are not interested in women's sport... A better balance could be achieved if the likes of BBC and Sky take the initiative to cover more women's sport and create more personalities in women's sport to increase interest.

  • Comment number 35.

    #29 think you've shown yourself to be an idiot. TOTM I presume!!!

  • Comment number 36.

    "I disagree. In football many fans support teams that aren't the best, so not everybody starting to follow football in England (or even in Manchester) supports Manchester United."

    That's not my point - I'm not saying everyone supports the best, but that the best will get more coverage and money than the not so good. For instance, I follow Birmingham City - they aren't as good as Man Utd, so it doesn't surprise me that they are always last on Match of the Day while Man U are usually first. More people watch Man U because they are a better team, and more people watch men's sports because it is a higher standard than women's.

    Ultimately, sporting worth is probably the most measurable concept in the world - if a beats b then a is better than b, end of story. While men beat women at sport, men's sport is better. It's pretty simple.

  • Comment number 37.

    In reply to cantona1968 (and anyone else who raised the point), womens football lags behind mens football (in England), mainly because the FA banned the game from grounds used by it's member clubs, on 5 December 1921 (the ban was cancelled in July 1971).
    At the time many thousands flocked to see the best ladies playing and the FA got scared, nowadays, their actions would be illegal (sexual discrimination), though the terrible treatment of the womens game still continues.

    Sport England is giving the FA around £26m over 4 years for 'grass roots football'. All, except the most blinkered, realise that the mans game doesn't need a single penny of this, as even lower league clubs will spend more 'nurturing' their youth players than any club will spend on their womens side, yet I wonder just how much goes to the womens game.
    A prime example of this was Charltons reaction when they were relegated from the PL, the first spending cut was their womens side, not the vastly overpaid players (many of whom, I have no doubt, were paid more per season than the entire womens side cost to run) who weren't good enough to keep them in the top flight.

    In any physical contest, the best men will beat women, that's simple genetics (but the best women will beat the majority of men ;) ). That is why the sexes don't compete against each other (except in sports where the physical side doesn't matter).
    Yet the best spectacle is simply the pinnacle of any sporting event
    eg. (in my eyes) the 20/20 match between England and Australia in the semi-final of the womens world cup, was the most exciting game over either world cup.

  • Comment number 38.

    A very interesting point from sm_mayo regarding the collegiate sport culture of the US. I've just graduated from the top sports-participating university in the UK (and one of the top ten in league tables) and even there, the only sense of sport being all-consuming was the number of sports team kits being worn, and the networking advantage sports team members had in student elections. Apart from a few reports in the student paper I usually had no idea who was playing whom, and a special set of matches in multiple sports between my university and fierce local rivals drew a crowd of only a couple of hundred - Conference South football teams, which is probably about the standard the football was, get that and more every single Saturday.

    Even the female coverage that is provided is with a sexist eye - women's tennis is the obvious one and you've hinted at it already, but note also the occasional attention paid to beach volleyball... sporting figures can provide healthy aspirational female ideals of various builds and sizes, but it's the one that matches the male cultural ideal that is the only one that gains attention.

    It is true that females will tend to be less strong than men, particularly in the upper body, so a straight like-for-like comparison will (usually, not always!) fall down - but I wish male and female sport could be more happily treated as equals. The tribal loyalty and branding success of football and to a lesser extent rugby and maybe cricket, though, makes that impossible.

  • Comment number 39.

    I know many people are distrustful of government, but sometimes, where there is huge historical discrimination and disparity, government action is needed. USA is far from a utopia for female sports, but it's probably more developed here than most other places. What started it all was the Civil Rights Act, which required schools to provide equal funding for boys and girls sports. There was, and continues, to be a backlash from men who feels shortchanged, but the main effect has been a legitimization of women playing sports. It can been seen on the non-professional level where many if not most leagues are co-ed; recreational leagues in particularly often have minimum requirements for women on the field.

  • Comment number 40.

    yeah nice one cantona1968. if that's actually your DOB i'm pretty concerned.

  • Comment number 41.

    I'm not being drawn into who is better than who arguement as it's pointless, however what I would say it;

    For what reason should women receive eqaual pay to men in comparable (i.e. Premier League to Premier league / elite tennis) sports?

    Using viewing figures as a guide. Taken from

    Murray's Friday semi final - BBC1's live coverage of the Murray match averaged 7.6 million viewers and a 50% share over just over three hours between 3.30pm and 6.45pm.

    Williams Sisters Final - Overall, BBC1's Wimbledon coverage on Saturday afternoon attracted 2.7 million viewers and a 27% share between 1.25pm and 6.10pm.

    Federer v Roddick Final - The marathon match between Swiss player Roger Federer, who claimed his sixth Wimbledon victory, and the U.S.s Andy Roddick, attracted an average audience of 7.5 million viewers, a 50% share.

    This is down from last seasons Federer V Nadal figures too, without trawling the web I can't remember those figures.

    Without mentioning time on court (obviously the mens final was almost five hours when the womens was over in less than two) why should the Women's game be receiving the same money as the men's when the viewing figures for a like for like final are 23% less of the TV share? We live in a world where sponsorship and media pays sporting bills.

    Unrelated but Sharapova earned more than Federer in sponsorship I am quite sure - this has nothing to do with sport in my view.

    The women's football world cup is shown on the BBC, I watched a few games - they are without doubt skilled players, however, until the day when they are as "good" (read competitive) as the men - people aren't going to watch it when they can at the same time watch the men's - it's the same problem which face non-league men's game over say the premier league. Let's face facts, Arsenal ladies wouldn't get near Stoke City's first team squad.

    Media follows the main interest points of the population, it's the way it has to be. Why do people not have as much interest in womens sport? In my view it's not because they don't get to see / read about it - it's because its not as competitive as its male competitor in many instances - of course there are instances that this is not the case but a blog calls for some generalisations.

  • Comment number 42.

    Cantona is a celebrated Manchester United footballer. 1968 is the first year that Mancherter United won the European Cup. Wmmwmmw is from the chorus of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

    Hope that helps.

  • Comment number 43.

    Ref 41 Morris_Day

    All very accurate. You might have added that both of the women's finalists were on court later that day winning the women's final, with the associated purse, hence ended up considerably wealthier than the men's finalists. Can you imagine Federer and Roddick being able to appear for the men's equivalent?

    Some have questioned why women players make funny noises on court. It's shrieks of delight: they can't believe they're getting away with it.

  • Comment number 44.


    you're ridiculous for even suggesting putting men and women in the same events at the olympics - i think few people would try to deny that men are generally stronger, faster etc and would win if competing against women at the majority of sporting events, but the thing that makes sport exciting to watch is a good CONTEST. think about how little money you'd pay to watch Man U play any conference side, and compare it to the price that a Man U vs Barcelona ticket would fetch.

    So you shouldn't be looking at whether men can run faster than women, but how closely matched the top 5 fastest men are to each other and compare it to how good the competition is between the top 5 fastest women in the world - that's what makes a sport enjoyable to watch - no-one likes a tennis game in which someone wins in straight games and straight sets half as much as a match that goes into a 10 game tie-breaker.

    p.s: the 'crybaby' comment just shows you fo to be the sexist pig that you are
    p.p.s: If you're too stupid to be able to be 'good at domestic housework' then i feel sorry for you - i think you're probably confusing your inability with laziness.

  • Comment number 45.

    Some interesting comments made thus far that seem to support some of the findings in a research project I have recently been involved with concerning the public's perceptions of female sport.

    My research concentrated on football specifically, and found that from a sample of approximately 600 football fans in the South-West of England, some of the afore-mentioned issues regarding the quality of the game, and an insistence that the 'product' of women's football should build its own success rather than piggybacking off the men's 'product' were reasons as to why men didn't watch women's football.

    However, these participants in the study were in a slight MINORITY, and this was unexpected given much previous literature on the topic. Over half of the sample stated a desire to consume an increased level of women's sport, and specifically in this case, women's football. The main thing preventing them from actually increasing their levels of consumption were situational factors; with time being the most obvious. Most individuals wanted to watch more women's football, but felt that with their own leisure time at a premium, they were unable to devote more time to a product that is effectively in competition with their existing affiliations. Therefore it was concluded that, for many football fans, internal psychological factors or external factors (views of friends/fmaily etc) did not have a major influence on their decision to consume women's football.

    Whether this can be applied to all women's sports is interesting, and I agree with one previous comment on this blog that highlighted that much media coverage of female sports seems to be broadcast in a way that reinforces previous stereotypes about women, and often trivialises the achievements of female athletes. Could this be due to the fact that many key strategic personnel in various media outlets are in fact, male?

    It seems that there ARE opportunities to make access to women's sports easier for sports fans - especially with many new media outlets now widely available. It also seems that there are people ready to watch it if those opportunities are made available. But who is going to pick up the baton?

  • Comment number 46.

    #42 Zootmac, thanks and well explained to wmmwmmw!

    #37 freddawlanen, what stopped the women developing their own stdia, their own football teams instead of living of the mens already developed brands. Arsenal Ladies may be the force in womens football in England but when you think of Arsenal you think of players like Liam Brady, Caharlie Nicholas, Thierry Henry, Fabregas etc etc. For the womens game to develop they have got to stop expecting handouts from the FA, form their own association, raise tehir own capital, attracte their own sponsorship. I watched part of the Womens FA Cup final this year and it was ridiculous that it was given national air time, forget about the physical aspects but I have seen a better standard of football in Sunday morning leagues. Keep it at amateur level for the next 30 years and if the interest is there and it develops it may warrant national interest.

  • Comment number 47.

    #44 D_A_09

    Personal insults hey??? Not interested in watching the 5 fastest men or the five fastest women, interested in watching the five fastest athletes competing against each other.....which basically is the men!

    with your line of thinking why restrict it to men and women, why not have the five fastest men with a lisp, the five fastest men with a limp and a lisp, the five fastest men with a limp, lisp and a leery eye????

    Interested in watching the best in whatever sport, end of, not some second rate competitors!

  • Comment number 48.

    Ref 45 TheProfessor2310

    Please would you tell us, specifically, from where the funding for your research came. Thanks.

  • Comment number 49.

    It is crucial that more woman participate in sport. However it can be quite challenging for women to have the confidence to get more involved in sports traditionally dominated by men. In grassroots football it is good to see more women doing more, but they are still in the minority whether it is in coaching or administering the game. Women bring different qualities than men to football; at footymums we are encouraging more women to have more to do with their kids sport. It won't happen overnight, but the increasing numbers of women actively involved in grassroots football will continue and hopefully accelerate.

  • Comment number 50.

    #46 cantona1968
    As with many sports, football teams started from local working mens clubs, union associations and even directly from factory/industrial workers. They were either financed from subscriptions, or more often, from the rich owners (for whatever reasons) and the club owners exploited the situation to the fullest extent (where did all the revenue go from massive crowds over the decades?).

    Women simply never had these opportunities, until very recently (and in many cases it is still prevalent ;) ).
    Women have been treated as second class citizens, with less pay for similar jobs (for those that even got the chance to work), which still goes on today
    Less opportunities in school (think particular lessons for girls and more often, ones where girls were actively discouraged from taking part), through university (many only accepting women since WWII) and beyond.

    It's all about opportunity.
    When all girls get the chance to play football in schools (like boys do) and when clubs lavish the best of these players with everything they could possibly need (like the best lads have at the top clubs), then you can start comparing mens and womens football.

    Money gives opportunity.
    As I previously stated, The FA effectively destroyed the womens game in 1921 (which would be illegal in more modern times) and it has taken decades to get back to a similar position that it was in then, in that time the mans game has grown from a poor working-mans game to the cash cow it is today.
    I don't expect the mans game to subsidise the womens side, but the FA owe them something and any savvy chairman must realise that maximizing the pool of players will enlarge the support.
    What annoys me the most though, is that Sport England throws money at the FA (like they are short of a few million), every penny of this money should go to the womens game.

  • Comment number 51.

    The point is even if they had equal coverage unless they play for Man U Ladies they still wouldn't get any coverage.
    Yesterday while Cavendish was winning an outstanding second succesive stage victory in the TdF the main story was of a Portuguese player being unveiled at a Spanish club (becuase he is ex-Man U), the second story was of an Australian cricketer who is injured and won't play a future game, third was Cavendish.

    Cavendish hardly got a look in on Sunday during his initial victory because it was Wimbledon even though it was a Swiss vs American final.

    Currently the second string Man U goaly signs a contract and its front (BBC Sport) page news.

  • Comment number 52.

    #46 cantona1968

    The reason Arsenals Ladies are a the top of their division is because Arsenal FC employ the majority of them within the club and so they can train as much as their jobs will let them. By the way I believe that women's football is better supported in the USA than the men's. A lot of the English team have signed professional contracts to play football their. How can you compare the two leagues with men v women when one is full time professional and the other is semi or amateur and has nothing spent on it. Yes they need to improve but until you have proper competition and get more people involved then it won't happen.

    Why doesn't the FA give more money to the women's game. In their last world cup a lot of them had to leave their jobs or go without pay to play for the country and only get about £20 a day for playing in the world cup whilst I'm sure the men's team get thousands and actually don't show any passion or heart.

    Also if the women's FA Cup final was that bad then why did over 20,000 attend the match which has happened on more than one occasion.

  • Comment number 53.

    #52 Let them set up a WFA and just get on with it and stop sponging of the men's game.

    And as far as AFC Ladies....thats my point, they are being supportd by money coming from the mens games because they do not get enough interest or attract supporters to pay their own way. They should be amateurs full stop and just play the game because they love it!

  • Comment number 54.

    A fast growing, vastly popular, fast paced sport played by, run and operated by women...

    Roller Derby anyone?

  • Comment number 55.

    It's interesting how many posts talk about sport being a matter of watching the best against the best: yet we are constantly hearing complaints about 'glory-hunter' football supporters and claims that the people who follow their local clubs are the 'real' football fans! The logic seems to imply that in football we should only watch the big four in this country - or perhaps just endless matches between say, Spain and Brazil.

    It's nonsense: the basis of watching and enjoying is competition; yes, we want to see skill, effort, striving, and so on. But women's sport can provide all of that. Watching Kelly Holmes in the Olympics was great - how does the time matter? We don't say the men's race was no good simply because it didn't produce a new record. Similarly, watching a school race can be as exciting and absorbing as anything.

    There's no doubt that it is a spiral - more coverage, more involvement, more competition, higher standards, more covrage. And that describes all sports, both genders. Oh, and I would far rather watch Arsenal Women than Don Revie's Leeds any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

  • Comment number 56.

    Ref 55 Charlton2Best2Law

    Don Revie's Leeds are either dead or in their seventies, so I'd have to agree that Arsenal Women would have the edge.

  • Comment number 57.

    RE Zootmac throughout

    You do avoid saying anything worthwhile, don't you, making pseudo-intellectual comments which rarely stand up to scrutiny.

    Any quango which has the word "Equality" attached to its name exists not to promote equality in any rational or balanced sense: it exists to promote advantages for specific groups of people.

    Well, no that really is nonsense. First, the main quangos wth the word Equality attached usuall are concerned with the enforcement of laws regarding euality. Secondly, the implication that promoting advantages for specific groups of people cannot promote equality in any rational or balanced sense is fallacious unless you mean that they are advantages over other people who begin at the same level. If x has less money than y or z, then giving x sufficient money for their wealth to be equal with that of y and z is promoting equality.

    Women's sport, set directly alongside the men's equivalent, is a vastly inferior version of the same thing. Perhaps the best is more attractive to a watching audience? It's just a thought.

    Its a very confused thought, micing different ideas up without analysis or understanding. In what sense inferior? You mean in being attractive to a watching audience? And where did the best come from? The logic of your argument leads to the opposite conclusion to your would-be Wildean comment at 56. Since the elderly Leeds players are men, according to you, their football is better to watch. Or are you saying that because the Arsenal mens team is better than the Arsenal womens team, therefore (yes, I have a problem with your logic but nowhere near as big a pronlem as you have with your logic) a bad male pub team in North London is better than the Arsenal womens team? Or are you saying we mustnt compare the latter two for some obscure reason which you want to keep secret?

    You simply make a ridiculous logical error regarding groups.

    And, of course, you absolutely fail to address the central point of my post, that it is in fact about competition. A male cricket match between Australia and Canada is likeely to be far less attractive to a watching audience than a female cricket match between Australia and England.

    Perhaps you could stop trying to be clever and start thinking? And yes, we can all think of the little one-liners but Im sure that wont stop you since you evidetly came on this to show off, not to contribute. Well done for bringing down the level of debate well beneath the unreconstructed chauvinists.

  • Comment number 58.

    #56 I actually reckon the surving Don Revie Leeds guys would probably just edge the Arsenal Ladies team!

  • Comment number 59.

    What both Zootmac and cantona1968 fail to understand is that the reason I would prefer to watch the Arsenal Ladies instead of Don Revie's team is that I agree with Brian Clough's opinion in this: Don Revie's Leeds teamn cheated their way through matches. I would rather watch Faye White play than watch Billy Bremner kick players.

    It is a serious point, too.

  • Comment number 60.

    Dear Zootmac, I can't wait now for your trite reply - and really, you have ben mainly posting to thrill yourself rather than engage in debate. You wrote the absolute nonsense about equality thinking that most would simply have a kind of 'huh?' response.

    You do it out of self-regard. It is a form of onanism really, isn't it?

    I'm sure you will enjoy your evening.

  • Comment number 61.

    I would have thought that women doing too little exercise for their health yet having a higher life expectancy would direct concerns towards men's health, not women.

    Anyway, women's sport (in general) is less advanced in terms of skill, money put in and interest. However, it's getting there. I wouldn't worry too much - it'll grow faster than men's sport did due to the infrastructure already being there for HD sports, fitness training and the government trying to get everyone to do more exercise.

  • Comment number 62.

    I have go with poster 17, Zootmac on this one.
    Serena winning 850k for her match vs Roger the same figure after 77 games of shear quality , exciting , brilliant tennis is absolute madness, and is unfare ! Women's Tennis is really pathetic now, the gap between the to players of each gender is widening by the second.Too many earn a really good living by being mediocre.
    The women in such Sport have their cake, so eat it and stop complaining about TV coverage, photos etc.
    One exception is the English Ladies cricket team , they are a great success, good to watch and look at.

  • Comment number 63.


    Sorry for not responding sooner; I didn't check this blog last night, after my last posting. That was remiss of me.

    I have clearly annoyed you with my flippant response to your initial posting. That was not my intention, and I accept that it is exasperating to make a well constructed and reasoned contribution to a debate, and then have a reply which appears to be dismissively trivial. That was ill-mannered and ill-conceived, and I apologise for it.

    I don't agree that my postings on this blog are merely "little one-liners". I have made specific points about Wimbledon prize money, for example, which I believe to be relevant to the discussion.

    Extending one point which you initially made, I would say that:
    1. Kelly is great
    2. Seb is great
    3. At their peaks, on a head-to-head, Seb would beat Kelly by 50 metres in the 800m and by 100m in the 1500m.

    I know that you agree with 1. I suspect that you agree with 2. I suspect that you also agree with 3. One difference between us is that you appear to believe that 3 is largely irrelevant to this debate, as it has unfolded, whereas I do not.

  • Comment number 64.


    The funding for the research was very minimal as it was an academic piece of work for a postgraduate course. The vehicle used to collect data was an online survey - the link was simply posted onto 7 football fans forums in the South-West. I suppose you could make an argument for staff time (project supervisor) and time off from my own job costing money, but I suspect that this was fairly minimal.

    I'm curious to know why you asked this particular question, without passing comment on the findings from the study itself? You seem to have very strong views on the subject!

  • Comment number 65.

    Having just recently watched the England Australia match at Stratford women's cricket is juct as boring as men's!! However it is disappointing to see that there is soo little coverage of women's sport even though they are fundametally more successful than the men's teams in a variety of sports.

    There is so much space for the women's sport to broadcast on TV. BBC3 & BBC 4 don't start broadcasting till the evening why not put some sport in before or save the repeats. It doesn't cost much to broadcast sport?! so why not fill it with women's sport or other minoity sports? What the worst that can happen nobody watches it? Well thats already happens with some other things so what 1 more!

  • Comment number 66.

    Ref 64 TheProfessor 2310

    Thank you for your response. My curiosity about funding stems from my innate suspicion of ANY research, conducted in the current political climate. A huge amount of research seems to be funded by vested interests, and the results of that research are usually the ones that the vested interests seek.

    Yours is clearly not. I didn't comment on the findings because I wasn't surprised by them.

    My "strong views" emanate from the fact that I am required to accept every aspect of the "politically correct" agenda. I am not required to believe it. And I don't.

    Good luck with the course. You never know: as a by-product, albeit inintentionally, you might convince me to change my mind. My "strong views" are far from being inflexible.



  • Comment number 67.

    couldnt the bbc take a major lead in this by screening more female sport on tv, with bbc 3 and 4 trials could begin and with plenty of promotion you could be on to a winner, starting with the major sports such as football, cricket and rugby. im sure there is a market out there it just needs that commerical boost from a major tv station.

  • Comment number 68.

    As Vigour says in #54, Roller Derby is a sport run by women for women that women are better at than men. I am male and both a referee and occasional participant (in the men's variant of the game) of the sport, and quite simply ladies are better suited physically to it than men. The male physique suffers from a higher centre of gravity, which is a real hindrance when being hip-checked, as I can vouch for.

    As well as the fact that this is a tough, fast and skillful sport that girls are better at than boys (and this next fact will hopefully placate cantona1968's outrage at ladies' sports "expecting handouts", although I suspect that football is more his area of special concern), this is an amateur sport that is run entirely by women, and all funds, sponsorship deals, marketing deals etc etc etc are generated by the teams of skaters themselves. It is all-inclusive - if you want to skate and train, you can play. Men can be refs, managers or cheerleaders, or just stay at home and do the washing-up (a bit like Mrs cantona1968).

    The fact that it is amateur means that the leagues don't have to rely on any hidebound, antediluvian monolith of an association, stuffed with crusty old misogynists, for recognition, funding, support or approval. You may love the sport (and an increasingly large number of people of both genders do - there are over 30 leagues in the UK already, not to mention the hundreds upon hundreds in the USA), or you may not care for it, or you may not yet know anything about it - as long as there are ladies who want to have a go at it, it will thrive without requiring any patronage. This is the future of women's sport, as far as I'm concerned - a game in which the ladies wrote the rules, and the ladies call the shots, and it's a magnificently entertaining spectator sport. And you can see the best teams in Europe, all the action happening a couple of feet from your seat, for a fifth of the price of a seat on some lofty, cold, far-from-the-pitch terrace at Old Trafford or the Emirates, and then go and get drunk with the players down the pub after the game! Doesn't that sound good?


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