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sport watch

How are sportswomen represented by Bristol print media?

By Nicola Waterworth

One of the reasons we started SportWatch was an attempt to challenge the media representation of our local sports women and girls. We wanted to present coverage of their sporting endeavours, publicise fixtures and present sporting role models to other women and girls.

We were spurred on in this by the work of others highlighting the lack of coverage of women’s sport in the national media and the damaging impact of this: the Women’s Sports & Fitness Foundation, Women’s Sports Trust, the Sportist blog and academic research by Amy Godoy-Pressland.

Some key things this work has told us about the coverage of women’s sport by the media are that:

  • Only 5% of national media coverage is devoted to women’s sport
  • This reduces to 3.6% in national Sunday newspapers
  • However, there is a strong and growing audience for broadcasts of major women’s sporting events
  • 60% of sports fans would like to see more women’s sport on TV

The WSFF warns of the knock-on effects this lack of representation and absence of a female sporting culture within the UK has:

women’s sport is not widely promoted and its competitors are not being publicly presented as fit, healthy, sporting role models to inspire women and girls to be physically active.

We wanted to confirm whether or not this picture was replicated at a local level, within the main print media.  Our findings, based on an analysis of the Bristol Post in the months of October 2013 and January 2014 are unfortunately all too similar to the national picture – in fact local print coverage barely keeps up with the poor rates of national coverage:

  • 4.3% of coverage devoted to girls and women’s sport
  • Only 1 article in a weekend Post edition about women’s sport, in either October or January
  • No articles about women appeared on the paper’s back page (only 3 back pages in either month were not about Bristol City or Bristol Rovers football!)

Detail of analysis

# pages sports coverage # articles on girls or women’s sport # photos of girls or women % coverage*
October 2013

189

18

8

4.7%

January 2014

167

16.5

10

4%

*% based on an avg of 2.5 articles per page of sports coverage.

So, we know why this matters. But what can we do about it, that is the more pressing question. Our SportWatch project is just a start — more action is needed if we are going to change this sad and damaging state of affairs.

We’ll be touching on these issues in our talk at the Fit For Women conference next week, the 26 February, where we hope to engage with attendees on ideas for the future. We also welcome a response from the Bristol Post.

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