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A Long Wade To Go: Women In Sports

Jul 10, 2013

By Sarah Leeves
Marion Bartoli; the 2013 Wimbledon women’s champion.

A phenomenal player who commanded the court from start to finish.  A true inspiration.  What else could be said of her?  Well, if you’re John Inverdale, you could describe Marion Bartoli as “an incredible role model for people who aren’t born with all the attributes of natural athletes”.  This came after comments he had made which insinuated Bartoli wasn’t “much of a looker” and, therefore, would have to play “scrappy” to succeed.  Nice guy.

Oh gosh, I’ve been watching tennis all these years and I didn’t know it was a modelling contest!  How silly of me!  I guess, really, in the women’s game, they should just get rid of the racquets and parade up and down in the latest Nike collection.  Why bother with the training? Why bother being an athlete?  We all know that the only way to succeed in any job, if you’re a woman, is to be good looking.

Now, we all love a British champion and Andy Murray did not disappoint.  As one commentator said “this is an historic day!  Murray is the first British champion since Fred Perry 77 years ago!  We’ve waited a long time for this day!”  Oh, OK, presumably everyone was busy on Wimbledon final weekend in 1977 when Virginia Wade won the title.  Not only that, she was born in Dorset and apparently that’s in England so that would make her… wait for it… British!  Ta-dah!  But let’s not make a song and dance about it because she’s only a woman and she should have been busy in the kitchen and not on court pretending to play tennis.  I hope she still managed to get dinner to the table on time.

So, what’s the problem here?  Why are the sporting achievements of women being overshadowed?  If it’s down to an argument of ‘men are better than women at sport’, then let us draw attention to the FIFA world rankings; as of 4th July 2013, England’s men’s team were ranked 15th in the world.  In contrast, despite the distinct possibility of ruining their nails, England’s women’s team were ranked 9th in the world (as of 21st June 2013).  Women 1 – 0 Men.

A lot of the problem comes down to visibility and sponsorship; Casey Stone, England women’s captain, earns £20,000 a year for playing competitive football for both club and country.  Now I wouldn’t usually scoff at £20,000 but Crawley Town FC (League 1) players, who do not represent their country, can earn anything from £50,000 – £100,000 per year.  That’s a lot of handbags and high heels if you’re a savvy shopper.

The sports fans amongst you will know that the Women’s Euro 2013 kicks-off this week, with England’s first match on Friday.  As you may have predicted, the matches won’t be able on standard terrestrial like the men’s equivalent would have been.  Although both BBC3 and Eurosport are showing proceedings, there is a definite visibility issue here.  I’m considering doing a pub crawl to see how many of my local pubs are showing the matches (it’s not an excuse to drink, it’s RESEARCH).

There are definitely some sturdy arguments against showing women’s football on TV though, including “but women play football so slowly”, “she hasn’t got nice legs” and “Eastenders in on, turn it over”.  It the face of such powerful debates, who are we to argue?

Look, I know we’re not all sports fanatics, but it cannot be disputed that sport inspires people; let’s not pretend the acerbic wit of Sue Sylvester in Glee hasn’t encouraged you to either don a power tracksuit or take up cheerleading.  Whatever your sporting interests, I implore you to stick to them; whether it’s watching or participating, you’re interest will always inspire someone else and without inspiration, there will be no more champions.  Choose an interest.  Choose a sport.  But, more importantly, choose women.

About Sarah: Sarah enjoys coaching trampolining and drinking well-made mojitos… Not necessarily together. She writes columns for DIVA, reviews for her local paper and postcards for friends. Find her on Twitter: @sleevsie22

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