PAST Media Ecology of women’s football (3)

So now we have established what media ecology is, it is time to discuss what the image of media ecology in the history of women’s football used to look like.

As discussed in blog post 1, the first ever recorded game of women’s football was recorded in 1895 (thefa.com, N.D.). However, it was not until 1989 where women’s football was finally televised (Doble, 2015). The first ever men’s game was televised in 1937 (Simkin, 1997), meaning that it was not for another whopping 52 years later that the women’s game was finally broadcasted on television.

It can be argued that the ban that was placed on women’s football in 1921 (thefa.com, N.D.) attributed to this gap between the first televised match of men and women, but it is not the only inequality that we can see in the portrayals of men and women athletes and sports figures in the media. In many research projects, it has been found that women are not in portrayed in the media as much as men. For example, in this report, it was found that in 2007, only 4.8% of the average space in national and regional newspapers that was dedicated to the sport of women and girl’s (Women’s sport and Fitness Foundation, 2008). Another inequality is that when women were portrayed in the media, emphasis was placed on the femininity of the athletes, as opposed to their athletic ability (Fink & Kensiki, 2002).

The most successful women’s team of that era – Dick Kerr’s Ladies from Preston (Zeen, N.D.).

So, the first game of women’s football was televised in 1989, and we know that way before this in 1921, women’s football was banned in the UK as it was “inappropriate” for women (thefa.com, N.D.) and that it could cause health issues such as infertility (Williams, 2003). This demonstrates that although the women’s game is way behind the men’s in terms of media coverage, there was a positive shift in women’s media coverage between 1921-1989. However, while women’s games were starting to be televised, the percentage of women’s football coverage to men’s football coverage on the main sports channel platforms and print media in the UK was totally in favour of men’s football (Christopherson et al., 2002). The media ecology of women’s football in the past has shown that coverage of women’s football has been sparse and not well received. Next, I will cover some key events in the coverage of women’s football in the more recent past.

If we go back to more recent history in the 21st century, 2011 seemed to be a key year for women’s media coverage in football (Petty & Pope, 2019). The year highlighted certain male journalists who communicated sexist comments during a men’s football about a female linesman, and saw them lose their jobs over the comment (Petty & Pope, 2019). As well as this, it was the year that the semi-professional women’s super league was formed – meaning that women could earn money for playing football (Dunn & Welford, 2014).) (It was two years after this in 2013 that the women’s football show first aired on the bbc, showing highlights of WSL matches) The FIFA women’s world cup of 2011 was also to receive an unprecedented level of media coverage for women’s football, where the matches were played in front of large audiences that were televised around the world (Browne, 2014).

A year on from these developments, we saw the London 2012 Olympic games, which was declared as “the women’s games” by many (Petty & Pope, 2019). The women’s football tournament in the games received more media attention than any other format of women’s football has before at the time, and a record 80,203 fans watched the final of USA Vs Japan (FA, 2012).

The year 2015 saw the women’s FIFA world cup held in Canada. This world cup was a “watershed” moment for women’s football as a sport, let alone for media coverage (Bell, 2019). Unprecedented levels of coverage, attendances and was the biggest tournament in terms of teams playing, goals scored (Barreria & Da Silva, 2016). The level of media attention that was given in the 2015 FIFA world cup was certain to increase visibility of women’s football in England, meaning that more young women and girls would be inspired to take up the sport.

Media ecology in women’s football in the past has been a downside of the women’s game, however, we are noticing a shift in the media ecology as we see the digital disruption occur. In the next blog post, I will be discussing present media ecology of women’s football , and how the digital disruption and new media transformations we have seen in the past few years (after 2015) have contributed to the positive shift that we are seeing in women’s football coverage in the media.

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