Monday, 21 January 2013

Women in Sport

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Something like one percent of sport coverage is about women’s sport. Not friggin good enough, not just because of equality , but because women’s sport is damn GOOD.

I am exhausted. I am sunburned. I am a women’s soccer supporter. I can imagine how much easier life would be had I decided only to support the men’s Brisbane Roar team — a free, short and pleasant ride to Suncorp Stadium, one of the most beautiful and well-equipped stadiums in the world! Instead, I have driven 55 minutes to Cleveland Showgrounds to see the women’s team take on Sydney FC. These two clubs are stacked with an unbelievable amount of talent, with ten Matildas on the pitch. Have you heard of the Matildas? They are our most successful national soccer team? They win things like the Asian Cup? They will definitely win a World Cup before the Socceroos? Never mind.

I had never had the ‘pleasure’ of visiting the Showgrounds before and because I am a Mariah Carey level diva, I expected there’d be a car park and stadium-type structure. Instead, I endured a 127 Hours type journey — searching 20 minutes for a park (on the street); wandering through numerous fields packed with children playing sport (with parents yelling at them to play sport better); finally stumbling upon the W-League fixture. 

I’m exhausted just writing that. 

The organisers ensured spectators felt comfortable following their orienteering activities by cordoning off the pitch and providing basic facilities. Unfortunately, they couldn’t or WOULDN’T do anything about the sun and as W-League games are exclusively played in the hottest parts of the day, people (like me ) with the delicate skin of the most inbred royalty are destined to suffer. 

Now, you could ask, “Rebecca, you are awesome. And we all know how smart and beautiful you are. Why don’t you just watch the game on television? Also, what shade of green are your incredible eyes?” In response, I would refer you to a recent decision by ABC-TV to cut their ONE live weekly game and show a delayed highlights package instead. This move not only reduced ratings (according to sports journalist Teo Pellizzeri), but was also a slap in the face to fans who, for some weird reason, might actually want to see a live game while eating Twisties and patting their cat, or however other people watch things. 

You face a similar problem if you are a fan of women’s basketball, cricket, rugby, and basically any team sport. Women in individual sports like tennis tend to get more coverage, although the female that has arguably received the most coverage recently is Black Caviar… a horse. 

If female non-horse athletes received as much attention as men, Ellyse Perry would be a national star. Perry is a 22 year old athlete who has represented Australia in both cricket AND soccer. Not only is she supremely talented, scoring one of the goals of the 2011 Women’s World Cup, she is also young and attractive. She SHOULD be one of the most famous athletes in Australia with the sponsorship deals to match, but of course, her name isn’t Mr Perry Ellyse. 

This year when the Olympics came around, I excitedly assumed that the treatment of men and women would be more equal because SPORTS AUSSIE PRIDE Oi Oi Oi etc!! The Opals (Australia’s women’s basketball team) have won silver or bronze at the last four Olympics, while the men’s team have failed to win a single medal. Yet during the last Olympics, the men’s team travelled to London first class while the women languished in economy. These are BASKETBALL players. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the sport, but even the women players tend to be kinda tall. 

Besides this, there were also people (me) having rage aneurysms (in my brain) due to Channel 9 (ew) prioritising a Lleyton Hewitt tennis match (he was out of medal contention) over an important Opals game (they were in medal contention). “More like the NOpals!” — Eddie McGuire, maybe. 

Speaking of international coverage, the Australian women’s cricket team (featuring Ms Perry) recently won their second T-20 World Cup in a row, defeating the favoured English team. THIS IS AUSTRALIA DEFEATING ENGLAND IN CRICKET. WE LOVE THAT SHIT, DON”T WE? After this momentous game I browsed a couple of “news” sites expecting to see stories celebrating this achievement, but of course, that was insane. The main sports story was cricketer Peter Siddle’s injury recovery. Far be it for me to imply that we don’t need up-to-the-second information about his finger or whatever, but in contrast, have you read any news about the recent spate in ACL (unfortunately not the Australian Christian Lobby) injuries within the W-League? There have been 11 in 18 months, including three in one round this season. These kinds of injuries almost always result in a 12-month stint on the sideline, and knee surgery. 

The Matildas have assigned the moniker ‘Princess’ to someone who has had one knee surgery, and ‘Queen’ to someone who has had surgery on both knees. HAHA SO FUNNY HOW IT HAPPENS SO OFTEN THAT IT CAN HAVE A SPECIAL FUN NAME. And yet, these women play on. They play in a semi-professional league, even though most of them wish they could focus 100% on soccer. They play on despite the fact that even though they train more than 20 hours a week and travel every weekend, they need other employment so they can pay their bills. They play on despite the fact that even though they get injured as regularly as their male equivalents, they don’t get the same financial support. They play on even though their games aren’t given attention and many fans of the sport they are playing denigrate them and scoff at what they do and how well they do it. 

And that’s where the issue lies, of course. Television and news outlets are not going to give time and space to women’s sport because the people of Australia don’t demand it. 

I’m a peaceful person, but I WILL bareknuckle fistfight any person who calls themselves a soccer or cricket fan and doesn’t go out to try watching a live women’s game before saying they don’t like women’s sport. 

This is especially true for soccer, in my opinion. Yes, the men kick the ball harder, but the skill-set is essentially the same. And in the women’s game the hated practice of diving and rolling around until you are carried away unhurt on a stretcher is comparatively non-existent. 

Maybe though, this is the wrong way to go about it. Maybe more people would be interested in women’s sport if the media took the initiative and covered it on a regular basis. Maybe if everyone tuned into the 7am news blitz on Sunrise and Mark Beretta actually covered results from women’s sport and showed great highlights, people would start watching. Maybe then the teams could play before the men’s games, out of 35 degree heat, on nice pitches that are easy to access, and it would become popular and then the women could be paid and then win World Cups and then Australia would actually become the ‘sports-loving nation’ it so often claims to be. I suppose it’s a classic chicken and egg scenario, where the ultimate answer is IF YOU ARE READING THIS, GET OFF YOUR ARSE AND GO SUPPORT WOMEN IN SPORT.

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Rebecca Shaw

Rebecca is primary caregiver and confidant to Tippi, the best cat in the world. She also likes writing bad jokes on twitter @brocklesnitch