Media Coverage for Women's Sport
When defender Casey Stoney joined the Arsenal women’s soccer team from Chelsea in 2000, she had to take a part-time job to support herself.
Working in the club’s laundry, she washed the uniforms of the men’s team, whose players included Dutch star Dennis Bergkamp.
Women’s soccer has grown considerably since then.
“Thankfully, now I don’t have to do anything like that,” says Stoney, 31, who captained the unified Great Britain women’s team in the London Olympics last year and now plays for the semipro Lincoln squad. “Things have moved on.”
Things will move even further if the Football Association has its way.
The governing body for soccer in England has begun a push to make the women’s game the country’s second-biggest team sport in the next five years.
Some 253,000 girls and women now play soccer every month, making it the third-most-popular sport in terms of participation, behind men’s and boys’ soccer and men’s and boys’ cricket, and surpassing rugby, according to Sport England, a government agency.
Eventually, the FA aims to bring in enough revenue from sponsorships and television rights to make the semiprofessional Women’s Super League (WSL) self-supporting, says Kelly Simmons, who’s leading the push for the group.
The catalyst for the FA plan was last summer’s Olympic Games, where the Great Britain women’s team scored a 1-0 upset against the 2008 silver medallists, Brazil, to move to the quarterfinals.
Defender Steph Houghton, who plays for Arsenal, scored the winning goal in the second minute of the game, bypassing goalkeeper Andreia Suntaque from a tight angle on the right wing while the crowd of 70,000 watching at London’s Wembley Stadium roared.
“The Olympics really took the sport to a whole new audience,” says Simmons, the FA’s head of national game, as she gazes out from a wood-paneled skybox at the pitch where Houghton made the winning goal. “There were so many fans, it looked like the England men’s team was playing.” (Great Britain lost to Canada in the quarterfinals, and the U.S. team won the gold.)
The London Olympics were the first modern games in which every country sent female athletes and in which every sport had female representation. Women outnumbered men on the American squad by 269 to 261 and won 29 of Team USA’s 46 gold medals. British women won 11 golds – as many as the entire Olympic squads of Germany and France.
The medals haven’t translated into money for female athletes. Although women made up 44 percent of all Olympic competitors in 2012, they’re still largely ignored by sponsors and the media.
In the U.K., women’s sports typically receive about 0.5 percent of all sports sponsorship money – estimated at stg£1.59 billion by World Sponsorship Monitor – and 5 percent of all sports media coverage, according to the London-based Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation.
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