Female football players invisible to the media

Players from the Spanish women’s football team Amanda Sampedro and Silvia Mesequer during training. (Rodrigo Jimenez/EFE)

Women in football are rarely seen on the cover of newspapers, nor do they have many highlights on television or broadcasts as their male counterparts do

For example, in November 2017, Spain women’s national football team was competing to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in France. The games were not broadcasted by any public or private television channel.

However, on those same dates, the men’s team played two exhibition matches that appeared on television.

This is one example from a million others that happen every day in media and communications. In a study conducted in 108 countries, women appeared in only 11% of sports related news.

In Spain, a research from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid noted that the press only devoted 5% of its coverage to female athletes. Despite that this study was conducted between 1979-2010, not much has changed since.

Gender pay gap

According to the Association of Women for Professional Sports, this situation results in fewer resources for women’s sports because “there is no impact or visibility.”

The fact that women have little media presence prevents them from becoming sports professionals in many cases. Few companies invest in female sports competitions because they are supposedly less entertaining.

The difference in salaries and awards can be enormous. In the case of the Spanish league played by men, the teams earn more than 20 million euros –which are divided in terms of television rights– plus an additional prize of 2 million euros.

On the other hand, the winning team of the Spanish women’s league gets a prize of 1,352.28 euros that is split between the entire team.


Falling into stereotypes

Clara Sainz de Baranda is a professor at the Department of Journalism and Communications of Universidad Carlos III. She coordinated the research of visibility for women in sports and concluded the following: “The many occasions in which women are reported, they fall into stereotypes”.

The media often highlights the image of women athletes rather than their achievements or performance. The Olympic Games are a clear example of this.

For example, AS newspaper published an article after badminton player Carolina Marin won a gold medal in Rio de Janeiro 2016. However, the text only acknowledged the merits of her coach, Fernando Rivas, leaving the champion in the background: “Rivas, the man who turned Carolina’s tantrums into gold”.

In an article about Lydia Valentin, who won the bronze medal in weightlifting (up to 75 kilos), ABC newspaper wrote the following headline: “Lydia Valentin, a Hercules with makeup.”

Other headlines focused more on the physical appearance of female players rather than on their achievements: “The list of international female hotties  in the Olympic Games of Rio” (El Mundo); or praise the man around them instead of recognizing their accomplishment: “Hosszu, the swimmer who breaks the world record thanks to her husband” (NBC).

Women athletes today are virtually invisible or unfairly presented by many media sources. It takes a great deal of consciousness and education to give them the leading role they deserve.

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Graduada en Periodisme per la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (2016) i en Filologia Anglesa per la University of the Fraser Valley de Canadà (2019). És redactora de Junior Report i del canal Innovación & Tech. També ha realitzat reportatges audiovisuals per a Televisó de Catalunya i ha escrit a la secció de Cultura de La Vanguardia.


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