It’s not the first time and unfortunately, it’s unlikely to be the last, that women’s sports go without coverage or mention in the media. Significantly however, this time the outcry has come from one of Ireland’s most renowned sports figures. Former Irish rugby player Brian O’Driscoll has highlighted the issue, alongside Ryle Nugent founder of Stakeholder Sport and formerly Group Head of RTE Sport.
Nugent sparked the conversation, with O’Driscoll showing his support, demanding more than “paying lip service” to the 20×20 initiative. O’Driscoll is a well respected and renowned player, who is lucky enough to have the reach that his female counterparts do not. He is using his platform to reach his 957.5k followers and urge them to get behind women in sport.
If @20x20_ie is meant to actually be the start of something then we have to stop just paying lip service to it. PROMOTE IT EDITORS! How are our daughters expected to be inspired if there are no visible sporting female role models? https://t.co/fn5GAFDMeI— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) October 4, 2020
Louise Quinn, Irish and Fiorentina football player, genuinely looks for an answer as to why female sports is not covered. A national team player, who pulls on the green jersey, is at a loss as to why the media continues to ignore female sports.
Our own research has shown that major media outlets in Ireland, who pledged to support the 20×20 campaign, have allowed their women’s sports coverage to dwindle. With gusto at the start of the campaign, there was a surge in coverage, however it appears to have unfortunately dropped off. COVID-19 and other factors certainly posed a challenge, but the pledge was made and the support is needed.
O’Driscoll is not the first Irish sportsman to show his support, there is a growing band of Irish fathers pushing for a level playing field for their daughters, including former rugby player, Paul O’Connell, and Irish golfer, Shane Lowry. Lowry recently pledged his support to the 20×20 initiative, wearing the 20×20 logo in place of his sponsor Immedis during the Irish Open.
“Sport has always been something special for me,” Lowry said “Not only has it given me a livelihood, but it has also given me tremendous pleasure both when playing it and watching it. No matter what my daughter, Iris, does in the future, I hope that she gets the same enjoyment from sport that I have. I want her to have role models, and I want more than anything for her to have the same opportunities that boys would have.”
Consistently it is said that women have to achieve the extraordinary to get noticed.
Be honest, how much did you know about the Irish Women’s Hockey Team before they made it to the World Cup Final? Let’s repeat that – World Cup Final. The only Irish team, male or female, to make it to ever reach a World Cup Final.
In 2013, the Irish women’s rugby team went on to win the Six Nations Tournament and the Gram Slam. What often goes unmentioned, is the lack of financial and media backing of the team. The Irish women’s team were the only team in the tournament without a sponsor. Only following success, did people sit up and take notice. After winning enough games to already secure the Six Nations, only then was their final game shown on television. It became the first time a women’s international rugby game was broadcast live in Ireland, as they faced-off against Italy to secure the Grand Slam. Extraordinary achievements.
Blindly people will follow men’s teams from local to national level. Supporters will go through the highs and lows with the team. When it comes to women’s sport, it appears that most people will only back the team after extraordinary success, with the Irish Women’s Hockey Team as a case in point. Consistently there is a double standard, with the Telegraph recently covering the different attitudes towards the same scenario when it comes to men’s and women’s football leagues. Same score lines, different reactions – “it’s just football” when it comes to the men, “cancel the league” when it comes to the women.
It’s a big month for Irish football, as both the men’s and women’s teams are on the brink of qualifying for the European Championship. Again, be honest, how much did you know about the women’s team and their quest to qualify?
Our Women’s National Team are two games away from qualifying for the Euros. This would be the first time ever the team qualifies for a major tournament. We are talking about the potential to make history. These players deserve the same coverage and support that their male counterparts are getting and both teams should be backed 100%.
For former Irish stars like Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Shane Lowry to take a stand for women’s sport is hugely significant and important. They are role models that have the scope to contribute and influence real change whether it be sponsors, the media and fans. We need to come together to level the playing field.