A debate that has been ensuing since the beginning of time on whether we still live in an egalitarian world of sports. Well! To explain the role of gender numerous research has already established the litheness and natural tenacity a woman has as opposed to men, hence the gender limitation in sports is merely chaff. Sports is an education of determination, pursuit and focus, however, sadly lack of aid, resources, exposure and acclaim is the atrocious corollaries of the hackneyed perception and conditioning of the gender battle. A scary part was a figure mentioned by the UNESCO reports; that despite being 40% of the sporting citizens, women sporting events receive only 4% of all media coverage as is the case with crowd turnouts. In my opinion the winds of change have already set in, for sake of convenient understanding, the taxonomy and meta tags of PV Sindhu and badminton in the search engine gives away a fair peek at her popularity, ranking of her and her career graph of her . This is just the tip of the iceberg with an example of just one athlete. The tags facilitate users to browse and find an event they would like to see, furthermore, the search could be refined with more specific tags, for example someone may use the meta tag BWF World Tour Women’s Finals 2021. They would see the splendid match between Korea’s An Seyoung and India’s PV SIndhu with the latter clinching silver.
I understand fully and wholly that sports is an industry and works on revenue and number evaluation, less the publicity, meager is the awareness and poor is the vested interest. It is a vicious loop that could be broken with adept media intervention. As a sportsman and a lover of sports, it feels rather proud when sports camaraderie is taken beyond the field. Sportswomen who have reached their pinnacle are now investing their earnings back to further sports. TOGETHXR was launched by four women Olympians to focus on women sports and Just Women Sports is another platform that is a result of the media deficiency women sports always faced. Saysh was created by Allyson Felix after her de ella fell out with Nike that represented ‘much more than simply the shoes we wear or compete in, it represents hope, acceptance, and the power to create change.’
“Whenever media tends to cover women’s sports, they do all the fluffy, nice stories, but we want the media to criticize performances. Be analytical – something that the media and journalists are with the male side of the game.” – Lisa Sthalekar, a top cricket commentator. Despite all arguments regarding the gender biases, there has been a tectonic shift in viewing patterns. Also, we cannot undermine the effect of the pandemic that has tuned the viewer’s psychology. With flexible viewing schedules people are now accommodating various non-linear modes that allow freedom to enjoy their sport ‘On the go’. Since the 70’s the curve for women who play or follow sports have been moving upwards. The internet is mostly responsible for bringing women’s sports and society together. Personally speaking, I can admit that my viewing patterns of women’s sport have diversified more aggressively with equal verve than what it was a decade ago. The finals of the 2020 ICC Women’s Twenty 20 World Cup between the Indians and Aussies had 53 million views globally, there was a phenomenal increase in the viewership in the initial stages, with the live viewing hours recorded to be 86.15 million.
The ICC chief executive officer, Manu Sawhney quoted that “I believe that we are at an inflection point for the women’s game. In the last three years we have made significant strides in our efforts to grow and develop the game and have publicly stated our long-term commitment to reach parity across men’s and women’s cricket.” Mithali Raj is known as the “second Tendulkar”, but viewers now fathom that it is fatuous to compare pink to blue, it is meaningless to compare Raj to Tendulkar, because while the ‘the Little Master’ has earned accolades over two decades It won ‘t be very impertinent to state that Mithali Raj is the only Indian captain in Cricket to have led the side to two 50-over World Cups and has contributed to putting the Indian women’s cricket team on the world map.
Social media has been instrumental in bringing women’s sports into virtual existence. They have helped viewers form an emotional connect with players, their strife and tribulations and extend their support over the growing viewership. US network Fox across all streaming platforms garnered 7.39 million views in 2019 for USWNT’s 2-1 win. (ref sportsmedia.com) These numbers actually represent people’s interest in women’s sports, acknowledging women’s sport as a major event that deserved viewership, because viewers no longer judge the athletes by their sartorial presentation, their oomph factor, or a scandal in the court. Despite protests by respected and accomplished male players that prize money should be based on viewership; tennis is one sport that has taken steps in gender analogy with equal prize money. With women’s sports being on the northern trajectory, big telecasting brands are rampantly signing rights over coverage of sporting events across the globe.
An event that attracts most viewers all over the world is the Tour de France with approx 3.5 billion each year, closely followed by World Cup Soccer with 3.3 billion people. However, it might be a little surprising when I say, racing is one of the most viewed sports in India with about 20 million viewers, closely followed by badminton. The Hockey India League has brought back the lost interest with the plummet in the national team’s performance in the international scenario. Tennis has intrigued the spectators as there has been a steady rise in views during the tournaments.
The Pro Kabaddi League has been a hit and stands second to IPL. The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has quoted that Kabbaddi has seen a worthy surge in viewership over HIL, FIFA world cup and Wimbledon Men’s Final with 522 million views. (source Pro Kabbadi League).
“We are at the helm of the sporting renaissance, where sport is not judged by who is playing it rather how it is played. People, especially the menfolk also acknowledge that women know and understand sporting technicalities and the world is inching closer towards the time when people will take women’s sports as serious business. As I waited for the lift at the lobby, three men were engrossed watching the 4 nations women’s football tournament held in Manaus where Indian women took on the Brazilians.
A smile crossed my face, reminiscing a quote by women’s sport lead at BBC, Anna Thompson as she said, “It’s almost like now you don’t have to apologize to be a follower of women’s sport.”
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