The Matildas 1-0 win over Brazil has not only progressed the team to the Women’s World Cup quarter finals, the win has the potential to become a ‘breakthrough moment’ for women’s participation in sport and coverage of women’s sport in mainstream media.
The Matildas win tells a bigger story about the impact that media coverage can have on female participation in sports, argues Jack Watts, managing director of sports sponsorship firm Bastion EBA.
Currently women’s sport receives less than 10 per cent of the broadcast coverage that their male equivalents receive. Watts believes that “these breakthrough moments, like what happened with the Matildas two nights ago, are all milestones in a journey to change, grow and continue to shine the spotlight on women in sport”.
“If young girls can see positive female role models, women succeeding in sport, enjoying sport, getting mainstream media coverage through sport,” Watts told B&T, “then like young boys do in terms of looking up to male sport role models, young girls can look up to female role models and aspire to be where they are and that has the opportunity to reduce drop out rate pretty significantly.”
There is a huge dropout rate for women’s participation in sport. Between the ages of 5-14 years, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that 56 per cent of girls play sport. But at 15 years, this participation plummets to 27 per cent. This dropout has significant effects on the emotional development and physical wellbeing of girls, it also has an effect on their ability to develop larger teamwork and participation skills.
The importance of the Matildas continuing success in the Women’s World Cup means that young girls will see greater coverage of women in sport, which will have a greater effect on their own participation in sports.
“It’s almost like a rising tide against boats,” said Watts. “The Matildas success increases the profile of A.) the sport, B.) the women’s section of the sport and C.) the female athletes themselves. That increases their profile when they come home, playing in the Women’s league. Young girls have role models to look up to, they are seeing successful female athletes on TV, in newspapers, they’re hearing them talked about in the media, they can aspire to be like them and stick through that participation pathway.”
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