Why The Media Have An Essential Role To Play In The Growth Of Women's Sport

Why The Media Have An Essential Role To Play In The Growth Of Women's Sport

Sporting legends are curious things - their birth and their qualities contradict. While the best are built on private pain endured in sequestered gyms and on lonely mountain roads, they only exist when amplified in the public sphere. So if you're wondering why the media often labours their own importance - now you know.

When Muhammad Ali died in 2016, David Remnick noted in his New Yorker obituary that Ali was the icon who knew when to let the iconographers in. He was a deeply complex figure but amid all the chronicling, related virtues transcended all of his knotty contradictions - first he was allowed to inspire, and then others got busy aspiring.

Ultimately, Muhammad Ali became much better for boxing than boxing was for Muhammad Ali.

While the media rightly spend time holding a mirror to sporting icons in the name of self-examination and revelation, that mirror should occasionally be tilted to reflect the image to a wider audience.

It is something that the Irish media need to do for women's sports.

Three of the biggest stars in Irish sport - Irish internationals Aine O'Gorman and Jenny Murphy along with Dublin's All-Ireland winner Carla Rowe - spoke on this topic recently at Universal Honda in Dublin for our second episode examining the changing face of women's sport.


First, a look at what is possible.

Rowe has experienced the remarkable occasion that has become of the All-Ireland ladies' football final, which last year was the best-attended female sports event in Europe, with 46,286 people at the game. This year, it smashed the record again: this time 50,141 people clogged the Croke Park stands. "Personally, it makes such a difference when you run out and we saw, last year, half of the Upper Cusack was filled and this year the whole way around and across was completely full. It's something that you wanted to achieve for years and years and it's finally kind of happening".

Rowe partly attributes this to the media coverage afforded the build-up to the game.

I felt the feeling before the game was, 'If you don't go, you're missing out'. I think that's what needs to happen across the board with all sports.

So, how to spread this? "You need to let people know", says Murphy. "A lot of the time, when you look for that information, it's difficult to find. When it's in your face and constantly being advertised you're going to get more fans".


Sports' health is measured in grassroots, and media coverage has a role to play at this level too, says Murphy.

When I started I was 18, a lot of the other girls were 18 or 19 too, and now girls are picking up a rugby ball at five and six. It's seen as a legitimate sport to play in the future, and that's because you have girls to look up to as role models. So it's about increasing visibility, bringing them to games - you want girls to look at female athletes and saying, 'that's what I want to do'.

O'Gorman agrees on the importance for creating a space for aspiration.

It's giving them something to aspire to as well, that they have this opportunity to go on and represent their country.

When I was a kid, my Dad brought me to Richmond Park and I remember seeing Olivia O'Toole that day and that's when I wanted to start living the dream, then to play for my country so I think it's important for young girls to have role models.

Things are on the increase, but I think we need to continue increasing the media drive, because when people come they aren't disappointed.

All three agree there is more to do, but when you look at the crowd in Croke Park last September, it's clear that message is getting across to young girls. The next step is for the media narrative to reflect just that.


Balls Team

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