If you are reading this, then you know that sport is a great and wondrous thing. It unifies us; it gives us something to believe in; it allows us to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
There is a sport out there for everyone, not just to take part in, but to support and be passionate about as well. However, modern media still seems to neglect a solid portion of the world’s sport.
I am talking about women’s sports, more specifically the sports that women play that are typically seen as “masculine sports”. Women’s rugby, women’s cricket, women’s basketball and even women’s football to a small degree have all fell victim to under reportage and tokenism in media coverage, and it is not just the media that are failing them.
The Irish Times published an article in early August stating that you cannot buy a replica of the Irish Women’s national rugby team’s jersey. Supporters had to make do with the women’s sizes of the men’s replica jerseys, which have a different sponsor and slightly different emblem. The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) subsequently released the women’s replica jersey with the correct emblem and sponsor, however, the jerseys are currently only available to pre-order in women’s sizes.
Does this mean that men cannot take part in supporting women’s rugby?
Similarly, male cricket players from South Africa are on their way to India to take part in the IPL, despite the current Covid-19 restrictions in South Africa. However, these very same restrictions are cited as the reason that the Protea Women cannot play their planned series against England, thus the series has been cancelled.
It is this apparent “we will do the bare minimum we have to for our women’s sports” that has led young girls to not take up sport as a competitive and focused goal. If young girls do not see female athletes wearing the national colours of their country in a competitive and highly publicised sporting spectacle, then how can they see themselves do the same thing?
There are many movements calling for greater representation and participation in women’s sport, the most prominent being the 20×20 movement in Europe. However, there are ways that many people overlook that will help drive women’s sports further.
Let’s take video games as an example. FIFA 20 was the first video game to let you play a manager mode as a female manager, however the option to manage a female team is still not there. You also cannot play as a female player in any form of a “My Career” mode. This is all in spite of the fact that women’s teams were introduced to the FIFA video game series as far back as 2016.
Similarly, the recently released Rugby Challenge 4 is the first rugby video game to include any women’s teams at all, however, it is limited to the sevens format and only consists of a handful of licensed teams. There is also no option to play a career mode as a female player.
The opportunities are there for women’s sport to be as big if not bigger than men’s sport. Women are just as talented, just as skilful and just as powerful as men when it comes to sport, yet we are still waiting for this to reflect in player numbers and support.
If we encourage the equality of women’s sport, only one thing can happen: there will be even more sport available for us all to enjoy, support and talk about; and after almost six months without sport, I for one want as much of it as I can get my gritty little paws on!