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Opinionista

What do we tell young girls about lack of women’s sporting coverage?

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Dr Kirsten van Heerden is one of a handful of people in SA to have represented her country on the sports field and hold a PhD in sport psychology. She has worked and travelled with high performance athletes and teams for more than 10 years and her services and techniques have been used by Olympians, world champions and SA sports teams. She is a keen advocate for women in sport and chair of Girls Only Project. She is in private practice in Durban.

Apart from a few tweets and some print articles, coverage of the women’s matches has been appalling.

During the Pink ODI earlier this year, where the Proteas beat India in a nail-biting Duckworth-Lewis adjusted finish, everyone was on the edge of their seats.

In the match that followed, there were moments of despair and moments of brilliance. We were hooked on the drama.

If you weren’t near a television it was no problem, News24 had live scoring to keep you updated, Radio 2000 broadcast live commentary of the match, or you could stream via DSTV if you wanted to.

But, what about the Protea women?

Did you know that the women’s team were also playing one-day matches at the same time – with many games on the same day as the men?

Many weren’t.

As a result, we missed some moments as exciting and as drama filled as in the men’s game. We missed 18-year-old Laura Wolvaardt become the youngest ever woman – and second fastest – to get to 1,000 ODI runs; we missed Shabnim Ismail’s four-wicket haul; and we missed Mignon du Preez hitting a 118 ball 90 to steer her team to victory in the last over of the third match to deny India a last win.

Apart from a few Tweets and some print articles, coverage of the women’s matches has been appalling. In particular, live coverage was non-existent. There was no TV coverage, no live streaming, no commentary and no live scoring.

The BCCI reportedly said it fell to Cricket South Africa to secure the live broadcast of the women’s matches. Failure to do so meant that South Africans were not the only fans denied the opportunity to watch the games – the rest of the world couldn’t watch either.

What has happened since the highs of the 2017 Women’s World Cup in England and Wales?

There was such an up-welling of interest in women’s cricket and many new fans stared following the team. There seemed to be a momentum and impetus to move women’s cricket – and by extension women’s sport as a whole – forward.

But here we just over six months later, and we can’t even watch a home ODI series.

The so called “double headers” in the T20s that followed in that series were broadcast, but it’s not enough. But how much of that had to do with the fact that these games were being played at the same venue as the men?

And it’s not just the case for cricket. Rugby, soccer and almost all other sports that women participate in suffer the same fate outside “big” competitions. Women’s Sevens sometimes gets a bit of airplay – but usually only if it coincides with the men’s at the same venue. And that’s largely down to the work of World Rugby to grow the sport – not because of the desire from our own governing bodies to make it more accessible for young girls who are looking for role models.

See the pattern here?

A friend was recently talking to a group of Grade 6 girls and one said: “It’s hard for us not to eventually start believing that boys are better at sport than us when all we see on TV is men’s sport.”

Whatever the reasons the women’s games were not broadcast, you know that there would never be a situation where a home series (or away if we are honest) for the men would not be shown live.

While I know that some will pull out the economic argument for the lack of women’s coverage, the question we have to ask is this: what should we say to young girls when they ask why only the men get to be on TV? DM

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