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Female athletes overlooked in sports headlines, research reveals


Female athletes have been under-represented in print media over the last 40 years, a study by  University of Wolverhampton researchers has revealed.

Coverage of sportswomen has been lacking in comparison to their male counterparts, with more column inches dedicated to soccer stories, even during high profile summer events.

Kay Biscomb, Director of the University’s Institute of Sport, and Hilary Matheson believes women’s sport needs to have a higher profile and has published their findings in a new report, Are the times changing enough? Print media trends across four decades.

The work presents a unique analysis of four decades – from 1984 to 2014 – of British print media coverage of sport for the same two week summer period where there were many women’s sporting events, including athletics, tennis, cricket and golf, in six national newspapers.

Research since the mid-1980s has illustrated the notion of unfair coverage with emphasis on femininity, trivialisation of women’s achievements, sexist language, negative reporting and focusing on physical characteristics of female athletes. However, the type of reporting has vastly improved more recently.

Dr Biscomb said: “Outcomes have been mixed, but overall it is clear that there is continued under-representation of female athletes and, that what were once considered to be the major British summer sports have been replaced by a dominance of soccer reporting.

“On a positive note, the way in which female athletes are represented in the media has improved, with an emphasis on performance rather than appearance. Changes in legislation, with the Equality Act 2010, have definitely had a positive impact and times are changing; but not enough."

She added: “We would definitely like to see an improvement in the amount of quantitative reporting of female athletes. It is noticeable now that there is more coverage on television, for example with women’s cricket and football, but there is still a way to go.”

The research also revealed other trends, such as an increase in the tendency to report on nationality and for reporting which creates opportunities for athletes to become ‘a source of national pride’.

The report stated  it is currently estimated that 66% of all adults in the UK still read a printed newspaper; and, with the split between male and female readers estimated at 51%:49% (Newsworks, 2016), it is still important to review the trends in newsprint reporting, although future research will embrace digital media.

Further information

For more information please contact the Media Relations Office on 01902 32 2736 or 01902 518647.


For more information please contact the Media Relations Office on 01902 32 2736 or 01902 518647.

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