Sports: time to let women in the spotlight

22 September 2017 /

Last summer when you turned on the radio, you could hear at least every hour the very recognisable official song of the UEFA Euro 2016 “This one’s for you”. Pubs were organising events for every match and TV channels were fighting with each other to have the right to broadcast it. However, did you know that there was a UEFA Euro 2017 this summer? And did you know that there was also a Rugby World Cup and a FIBA Eurobasket? Unfortunately, when it comes to women’s sports, sponsors, media, and TV channels are less talkative.

David Guetta, Zara Laarson, where were you this summer?

This question might look off topic but it actually points out a very important aspect of the issue around women’s professional sport. The lack of communication. Indeed, this summer from the 16th July to the 6th August, there was the 12th edition of the UEFA Women’s championship that took place in the Netherlands, finishing with a great final opposing Denmark to the host country, the winner of the competition (4-2). Just after that, from the 9th August to the 26th August, there was the 8th edition of the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland, with a final between England and New Zealand, the latter eventually won (41-32). In the European Union, less than 10% of newspaper sports articles and television coverage are about women’s sports and it reaches 13% worldwide (European Parliament, 2014). There is no denying that the lack of promotion regarding women’s sport creates a vicious circle: media does not talk about it often, sponsors do not see the interest to take part in it, the conditions to create a joyful atmosphere are not met and stadiums are far from being full. Whereas everyone could at least mention some names as Ronaldo, Messi, Zidane when it comes to football, not a lot would automatically answer Martens, Harder, Marozsan and it feels the same for other sports. More than a feeling of frustration or lack of recognition, this has crucial and practical consequences on professional sportswomen. Among others, they are considerably less paid than their male counterparts.

What is the European Union doing to promote women’s sport?

Since 2009, with the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union has competence in sport so it can launch actions in favour of gender equality in this field as far as it respects the principle of subsidiarity. Then, in 2014 and with the strategic actions 2014-2020 in mind, the European Commission recognised 3 major issues in the field of sport: women are under-represented in decision-making bodies, media and coaching; they suffer from unequal treatment especially regarding training and competing conditions but also in their employee status and they suffer from gender stereotypes that can lead to dangerous behaviours such as harassment. Consequently by 2020, all the member states are supposed to adopt “a national strategy for gender equality in sport”, to “promote diversity among decision makers”, there should be “40% of women and men as volunteer and employed coaches” as well as “30% of women and men as coaches of all the national federations’ team” and a “legal framework and an action plan against gender-based violence in sport”, media must cover women’s sport more and reduce the spreading of stereotypes (European Commission recommendations, 2016). Also, on the 24th January 2017, the international day of women’s sport has been created under the initiative of the French TV and radio regulatory body. To sum up, as usual, the member states are the ones to hold responsible if these measures are not respected.

What’s next?

The member states will have a lot of opportunities to prove that they are meeting their commitments under our citizen’s watchful eyes. Meanwhile, brace yourself for the next women’s sport events! Among others, in 2018, Spain will host the FIBA basketball World Cup, Japan will host Volleyball World Cup and France will host Handball European championship as well as the FIFA World Cup in 2019. If you are a football lover, take a look at the UEFA’s application for women’s football and its campaign named #weplaystrong. Now that we know about these events, it’s time to make some noise for our sportswomen!

Alexia Fafara is studying for a Double Degree Programme in European Studies at Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland and the Institute of Political Studies in Strasbourg, France.

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