Letter sent to the BBC today
I would like to make a few points about last night’s Sports
Personality of the Year. I think you would agree that this programme is important and iconic and is now a traditional part of the Christmas schedule. It is also a celebration of sport. It creates heroes and role models for our young people. And it showcases young sports people, as well as ordinary people who devote their lives to sport. In short it is a hugely influential programme with the power to inspire and excite.
So I’d like to know why the BBC thought it appropriate and adequate to run a section on the programme devoted to women’s sport which lasted 40 seconds? 40 seconds!? On women’s sport? Out of a two hour long programme? I could forgive the lazy use of the tired old phrase ‘girl power’ if it was at least giving something substantial on women’s achievements. But it did not.
This section of the programme perfectly illustrated the BBC’s attitude to women’s sport. It is second in line to men’s. It is unimportant. It can be shoved into a special little section of the programme which lasts just moments. It is not even worth talking about. (None of the women featured got to speak. Many of them weren’t even named. Although they were patronisingly all referred to as ‘golden girls’.)
Just to top things off, the section at the end which so poignantly
celebrates the lives of sportsmen who have died in the year – well sadly I can say sportsmen because there wasn’t a single woman included in this section. Have no sportswomen of note died this year? Really? I don’t believe you. Or is it just that their lives are not worthy of being celebrated in the same way as the men’s?
Let me see if I can guess what your response to my points will be:
1. Women’s sport just isn’t as exciting as men’s, hence it doesn’t
attract the interest that men’s sports get.
Really? Do you think all of the women around the country who regularly take part in all kinds of sports think this? Do Jessica Ennis or Amy Williams think this? In the US women’s soccer is huge and draws in massive crowds as well as sponsorship and investment. Without giving exposure to women’s sport (which is as competitive and as exciting as men’s) then it will continue to be sidelined, underfunded and thought of as second best.
2. Our women haven’t been all that successful this year – the show only focuses on success
Have our women’s national cricket, rugby, hockey and football teams not recently all had incredible success? Shouldn’t we be celebrating this? Our footballers and rugby players reached the finals of the world cups for goodness sake! Where were they last night? They were completely invisible.
(Mind you we were treated to a long sequence about how awful the men’s football team were this year! What an injustice and an insult to our national women’s team.)
3. It doesn’t matter because both men and women enjoy watching men’s sport
It does matter. Women’s participation in sport is on the decline.
Girls need to be encouraged to take part in sport. They need role
models. They need to see what success in sport looks like and they need to be inspired. Last night’s show only showcased two women in two hours. If women’s sport doesn’t get the exposure it deserves then it will continue to be an after thought. The BBC has a responsibility to its audience and it must lead the way in ensuring that women are given the air time they deserve.
Finally, I think it’s sad that only two women were shortlisted for the award. And the team of the year shortlist included no women at all (see above re the Rugby and Football teams).
Does your team of 30 expert sport editors know and understand anything about women’s sport? I’d be interested to know how many women were on that shortlisting panel?
I look forward to hearing from you with a response
I await their response with baited breath