Womens sport; if you broadcast it, they will watch it.
It was the thrill of sitting at the SCG with my parents, surrounded by thousands of screaming supporters at a rugby league Grand Final that made me the sports nut I am today.
Anyone who has met me knows that I have a rather loud, distinctive and deep voice. While this sometimes meant I was teased at school, as a sporting fan it made me a hero. I love nothing more than sitting in the stands, meat pie in hand, cheering at the top of my lungs for my favourite team.
As my children will attest, it can be somewhat embarrassing. On more than one occasion they have had to remind me that the players (or the referee!) will not hear me, regardless of how loudly I scream at the television.
It’s with my booming voice that I think it’s time for me to make a racket about a part of sport which I don’t think gets given a good enough run. Despite sport being somewhat of a national pastime, women’s sport does not get its fair share of the wicket.
Female athletes are also caught behind when it comes to funding, meaning they are fed a dummy pass when it comes to things like wages, coverage and sponsorship.
It’s time that we tackle this issue head on. I think there is at least a hat trick of measures that would help drive women’s sport for six.
First wicket: More women’s sport in the media.
No matter which way you try to pitch it, women’s sport is treated like an offsider in the proverbial media field. Not only have the media dropped the ball on providing broadcast coverage of women’s matches or games, coverage of major international and domestic tournaments is also booted out of mainstream media, who fail to report adequately on the many victories of our female teams.
In the last 10 years, the amount of coverage that women’s sport received in the media has slipped from 11 per cent to 7 per cent of total sports coverage*. When I question the third umpire (media executives) as to why this is the case, I am often told that fans will not watch women’s sport. To me, this argument seems a bit ‘leg before wicket’. If women’s sport is not televised or reported on, how will they ever build a true fan base?
Australian women’s sports teams have shone internationally, winning World Cups in cricket, hocket, and netball. The Australian women’s rugby seven’s were the first team to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
I defy anyone to question the impressive athleticism of the Diamonds, our national netball team, or our recent World Cup heroes, the Matildas. They play with a passion and commitment that rightly inspires others to follow their path. Like that wonderful sporting movie Field of Dreams, it’s time for our media to adopt a mantra of “If you broadcast it, they will watch”.
Second wicket: More female MVPs on sporting boards
In 2012 the Australian Sports Commission mandated that by 2015, any sports organisation receiving funding from the commission must have at least 40 per cent female directors. This strong field position has kicked some goals, with sports such as netball, hockey and gymnastics well above target. Other sports, however, still lag behind in the final quarter.
The AFL has 25 female directors, the NRL only 12 (including two chairs). Australian Rugby Union has two female directors on its nine-person board, with only a single female on each of the NSW Rugby and Waratahs boards. Clearly we have some way to go before we declare it a match.
Third wicket: Get the whole of Australia behind all our teams
Every four years when the Olympics roll around, the whole country gets behind athletes of all persuasions. Badminton? You betcha. Archery? Can’t wait. Equestrian? Awesome! It appears to be one of the only times where males and females enjoy equal levels of crowd support. So wouldn’t it be a winner if we could back both sides all year, every year? It’s time that the Australian community join together to support all our sporting teams.
I say to the business community, put your money behind women’s sport through sponsorship and corporate hospitality. Recognise the marketability of these outstanding women athletes, who are capable of inspiring the community with their leadership, determination and healthy living.
I also challenge each and every person who reads this article to spend this weekend getting along to one game of women’s sport. I have no doubt you will walk away bowled over by the players’ skill, athleticism and commitment to their sport.
And with those three wickets, I have no doubt that the crowd will roar.
Kerry Chikarovski is a former NSW Liberal leader and now chair of NSW Women’s Rugby Union and a board director of NSW Rugby Union.