SA Sports an elite boys club?
Looking at the world today, gender inequality is at the forefront of an all-out equality battle. This is also a reality within the realm of sport, according to Ms Bianca Els – a sport and recreation professional and researcher from the School of Economic Sciences on the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal).
According to Bianca – who is one of the organising members of the inaugural African Sport Leadership Programme (ASLP), the issue of gender inequality in sport impacts not only bottom line profits and return on investment, but also represents a fundamental challenge in terms of gender fairness and balance. “We need to ask ourselves why women’s sport is not attracting more media coverage and commercial investment – despite the fact that participation rates are increasing (especially in the so-called elite sporting codes), it is exciting to watch and have the potential to draw big audiences.”
The following opinion piece forms part of the build-up to the inaugural Africa Sport Leadership Programme, which is set to take place in South Africa during October 2016. The ASLP represents a tailor-made, needs-based leadership growth series, focused on developing the aptitudes of individuals to lead the implementation of sport and physical activity related interventions, as partners of multi-sectoral groups and teams operating on various levels.
The statistics paint a sombre picture
Bianca is op the opinion that media coverage of women’s sport - across the world, is unequal to that of their male counterparts and as such it continues to broaden the gender disparity. Research findings of the international Gender Equality in Sport Study support Bianca’s statement and indicates that sport is one of the most covered topics in the South African media with more than a quarter of all coverage being devoted to it. Of this coverage, only 10% is dedicated to women’s sport or female athletes. A study conducted in Denmark, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden suggests that with few exceptions, the amount of media coverage of women in sports has not substantially changed since the 1970s. Even if equality in the workplace has been embraced by society, why then do sports remain a male stronghold or proverbial boys club?
Traditionally, sport is perceived as being a male dominated field and sportswomen struggle to meet men on an equal playing field. Challenges in terms of talent retention, sponsorships and media coverage remain evident within the South African sports arena. Soccer, cricket, and rugby were traditionally a male game and it is only in the recent past that women have started playing and competing in it at international level. It’s a tough task being a South African sportswoman as the majority of women’s sport is largely viewed as being on an amateur level and as such it plays second fiddle to their male equivalents.
A redesign of sports management is required
Women continue to make a consistent contribution to South African sports at all levels on a daily basis. According to the 2012 Olympic Games Marketing Report the most watched event in South Africa for the games was Banyana Banyana’s match against Sweden, with a total of 2.7 million viewers tuning in. Even though South Africa lost the match 4-1, the statistics validate the statement that women’s sport in South Africa is developing and maturing to a level equal to that of traditional male sports.
It is therefore of cardinal importance that sports managers, administrators and corporate role-players (including the media) should return to the drawing board and find a way to extinguish the negative cycle of inequality since it threatens the very livelihood of women’s sport as talented players turn their back on sport or leave the country to pursue their careers abroad.
More about the ASLP
Bianca sums up the ASLP by stating: “We aim to vest collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches, and initiatives to empower Africa’s sports scientists, sports physicians, athletes, coaches, technical persons, administrators and governing bodies with a view to produce far better results while building up a vital knowledge base.”