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Where Have All The Women Gone?

Beth Jakubowski argues that the proposed reforms to the women's Six Nations tournament show that society still has a long way to go before equality in sport is realised

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This year's Six Nations tournament was filled with glorious highs and painful lows. Stuart Lancaster's England were flying high and had the grand slam in their sights. But they plummeted to earth with a harsh and abrupt reality check and the coverage went ballistic.

Not even the matches played at Twickenham after the men's matches were properly televised. Image: abragad via flickr Creative Commons
Not even the women's matches played at Twickenham after the men's games were properly televised. Image: abragad via flickr Creative Commons


The Six Nations was slapped across the back pages and expectations reached fever pitch. Would Owen Farrell be fit for what was effectively the final? Did Chris Robshaw just seal his Lions captaincy? Just how brilliant is the talismanic Leigh Halfpenny?

Did anyone realise at the same time the women's equivalent of the tournament was taking place?

It was the glittering Emerald Isle who rightfully took the plaudits in the women's tournament. Ireland won their first grand slam in triumphant fashion. But as the euphoria of their success faded, a more pressing question began to arise - why was it so poorly covered?

It is a troubling aspect of women's sport that outside of the Olympics, very little coverage gets handed to our sportswomen. However, respect has to go to the RFU (Rugby Football Union) for piggybacking the women's fixtures onto the men's in an attempt to stir up national interest.

It is something the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have been doing with the women's cricket fixtures for a while now, if you are lucky enough to get a ticket to one of the England men's ODIs or T20s, you are also provided with the opportunity to see the women's game played first.

While it has hardly been drawing in blockbuster crowds, Sky Sports has been covering the matches expertly with highly regarded pundits such as David 'Bumble' Lloyd and David Gower on hand to provide commentary. Considering our women's team has been one of the best teams in world cricket for the past few years it seems about the right time to start showing their matches on television.

As Sarah Taylor makes her tentative yet revolutionary first steps in the men's game, women's cricket is very much on the rise. But where cricket has succeeded, rugby has dismally failed.

Some pundits have been declaring that the women's Six Nations was a triumph and its profile has risen to new heights. Unfortunately there are many that will disagree. The cold, harsh reality is that Ireland's grand slam victory had minimal coverage. The WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) and the SRFU's (Scottish Rugby Football Union) solution to this is a proposed revamp of the whole women's tournament.

Their plan is to break the tournament into two tiers, with Ireland, France and England in the first tier and Wales, Scotland and Italy in the second. This is meant to increase interest and even out the competition. However, this proposed solution may fail to generate the rapt interest the WRU and SRFU desire. Moreover, surely this solution is equally as suited to the men's tournament? While Italy and Scotland provided some entertaining highlights to the tournament they have not been able to match their Northern hemisphere counterparts for many years.

Perhaps the most productive way forward is to provide the same respect and coverage to the women's game as is given to the men's game. Cricket has shown how successful this tactic is and the WRU should consider it a guideline for their future plans.

The issues surrounding coverage is also down to the BBC versus Sky. Sky Sports hold the rights to the cricket whereas the BBC holds the rights to the Six Nations. Sky showed the entirety of the women's cricket world cup, the BBC failed to show the women's Six Nations matches except in a highlights package.

The revamp will only alienate the women's game further and push it into the doldrums. It makes it a more complicated system to follow and that will only serve to isolate it from the men's tournament. It is more beneficial to focus on providing women's rugby expert coverage rather than fiddling with the tournament set up.

Rather than allow this issue to remain lurking under the carpet where it was hurriedly brushed following the 2012 Olympics, the time has come for pundits, broadcasters and the public to see women's sport for the professional, successful and inspirational institution that it has become beyond the Olympic stadium.

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4 Comment

SS Posted on Sunday 16 Jun 2019

Another feminist rant.

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Syd (@FairgroundTown) Posted on Sunday 16 Jun 2019

Actually the cricket "double-headers" are the exception, not the rule. There are only 2 this year, out of 10 women's ODI and T20 internationals.

And to be honest, for us fans of women's cricket, they are a bit of a mixed blessing too.

See here for why:

http://samebat.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/t20-double-headers-mixed-blessing.html

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George Barrett Posted on Sunday 16 Jun 2019

England rested 17 players for this years Six Nations to concentrate on the Sevens World Cup. I agree with you, trying to change the tournament into a two-tier system will not work. Even the MPs are now against it!

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hi there Posted on Sunday 16 Jun 2019

Women sport is hardly covered because it's not as exciting- and never will be- as men's sport, so there's much less demand to watch it. This is because men can get much stronger, faster, agile, etc, than women. If you don't understand why then read a book on human evolution. Females can be as good or better than men in pretty much everything else in life; inteligence, personality, creativity, etc but not in sports. It would be silly to try and force coverage of women sports competitions on people that just have no interest in watching it. However, of course there should be equality of opportunity in taking part in sports for men and women.

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