I had decided that after reading a certain article by a particular Herald-Sun “columnist”, I wasn’t going to take the bait. I mean, that’s exactly the reaction she’s looking for right? Upon reflection though, if I’m to stay true to the motivation behind Change Her Game, I simply have to respond.
From the outset, I want to make it clear that this has never been, nor should it be, a men versus women argument. Yes, it is an “indisputable fact” that men are biologically stronger and faster than women, but that biological difference has nothing to do with the value of women’s sports. Indeed, calling women’s sport an inferior product based purely on biology is flawed. How do we even measure strength? Is it the ability to bench press 150kgs or is it Melissa Barbieri enduring six weeks separated from her two year old daughter, just so she can compete in a World Cup? It’s mental strength such as Barbieri’s which ensures the contest in women’s sport is just as fierce.
As the amazing Angela Pippos pointed out, “Why should men be the measuring stick of greatness? As a starting point how about we just stop comparing men and women. It’s time to come to terms with the fact that men and women are different. We are wonderfully different and this is a good thing that should be embraced and celebrated.”
I respect that some people might not enjoy watching women’s sport, each to their own. I’m not a fan of golf… at all, played at any level, by any gender. However, I certainly respect the fact that many people love it and I believe that golf fans shouldn’t have any barriers when it comes to playing, watching or tweeting about it. Which brings me to the one sentence in this infamous article that I wholeheartedly support: “It’s the public that ultimately determine if a sport will receive media attention and corporate support.”
That statement leads in to exactly what I aim to achieve with Change Her Game. I want to prove that there is an audience for women’s sport and if you’re willing to look, you’ll see that the signs are well and truly there.
Tweets about the FIFA Women’s World Cup group stage matches were viewed 2.7 BILLION times (with the Matildas being the second most mentioned team). At this same event, Canada has had its biggest sporting attendance record broken twice.
In the UK, women’s sport is also booming. In the wake of the 2012 London Olympics, the BBC, BT Sports and Sky have all expanded their coverage of women’s sport. For the first time ever, the women’s boat race was broadcast live on TV to an audience of 4.8 million. The FA Women’s Cup recently received sponsorship worth millions of pounds ensuring the final will be played at Wembley for the next four years. In fact, sponsorship in women’s sport is such a growth area, it has resulted in the creation of businesses such as the London-based Y-Sport, a sports management and sponsorship consultancy which is focused purely on women’s sport.
Closer to home, the Seven Network’s decision to broadcast the Women’s AFL match is further proof that the audience for women’s sport is growing. With a participation of around 195,000, women’s football is the AFL’s fastest growing segment.
Not forgetting our history-making Matildas, their opening World Cup match had an average TV audience of 136,000, with an 11.7% market share.
On an anecdotal level, in the last six months that I have been working with female athletes, I have felt more welcomed and included than any time in the previous seven years I spent working in professional men’s sport. The inherently female quality of community and inclusiveness permeates through women’s sport and I believe we are all better off as a society if we experience it.
The good news is, the power is in our hands to invoke change. Have conversations, participate in women’s sport, head down to your local sports club and watch a women’s game. Write to your local Minister about women’s sport funding. Support your female athletes, follow them on Instagram and Twitter, engage with them. Follow women’s sport advocates like Sportette, The Women’s Game, Girls Play Footy and Sporting Sheilas. Be a champion of change. #ChangeHerGame