The Women's Sports Foundation



Women’s Sports Foundation slams “appalling” media coverage of female sport in Britain

A damning new report released today by the Women’s Sports Foundation [1] has revealed the massive disparity between the media’s coverage of men’s and women’s sport in Britain.

Reflecting just how poorly the UK's top female sportspeople are treated by the media, the charity says a mere 5% of sports coverage [2] is given over to women, despite new figures which show almost nine out of 10 people (88%) feel it is important to see more about Britain’s successful sportswomen in the press. When questioned in more detail, almost two-thirds (65%) of the people responding to the new WSF survey said they would actually welcome more women’s sport on TV.[3]

Perhaps of most concern are the long-term implications of this continued media blackout. With the backing of a whole range of top female athletes, politicians and even some media personnel, the Foundation’s new report [4] – Britain’s best kept secrets – warns of a very real and significant risk that the wide gap that already exists between men’s and women’s sports participation and success will never be closed if the inequality of sports reporting continues.

Deborah Potts, Women’s Sports Foundation chief executive said:

 “It's crucial that the media acknowledges and celebrates the wealth of talent that already exists in Britain as without their support the role models the next generation will attempt to emulate will just not shine through. It appears the British public are firmly behind us on this as only one in ten dispute the fact that more coverage of women’s sport would help develop more women champions for Britain and encourage girls to play more sport.”

Whilst the Foundation admits that its research has shown there are occasional examples where men and women tend to be recognised equally based on the merit of their performances – athletics being a case in point - this is clearly not the case across the board.

As a result, it’s no surprise that when asked to name three current British sportswomen, some two thirds of respondents failed miserably. Only world record holder Paula Radcliffe was consistently mentioned, with 22% able to give her name unprompted.

The serious issues raised by the new report are to be debated at a high-profile event being held today at The Oval cricket ground under the banner of the Foundation’s new ‘Campaign for Coverage’. Delegates from the world of sport, politics, and the media, including Olympic swimming medallist Karen Pickering, England women’s cricket captain Clare Connor, Daily Telegraph journalist Sue Mott and presenters Eleanor Oldroyd and Clare Tomlinson will be present to share their own personal experiences, unpick the survey’s findings and, crucially, attempt to lay the foundations for the future of women's sports coverage.

The new findings have been timed to coincide with the Foundation formally re-launching, almost 20 years after it was first founded. A new website – is available from today, together with a new logo and a fresh focus on galvanising grass roots support for the organisation’s aims.

 “We have had nothing but a resounding affirmation that the questions raised in our report are long overdue an airing. The focus of the media campaign is to make sure that sportswomen across the country – regardless of age or ability – are encouraged to make their voice heard in order to remind the decision makers in the media that the general public do want to see, hear and read about our sportswomen, and they are ready to do it now,” concluded Ms Potts.-ends-

 Notes and links

 [1]        The Women’s Sports Foundation, founded in 1984, is the UK's leading organisation dedicated to improving and promoting opportunities for women and girls in sport and physical activity. The Foundation works across the UK through a combination of advocacy, information, education, research and training.

 [2]       The WSF estimates just 5% of sports media coverage is devoted to women’s sport. Desk research carried out in 2000 revealed just 2.3% of all sports coverage in the tabloids was devoted to womens sport. Some 1,564 photos of sportsmen were used, compared to just 36 of women. Repeated in 2003, the same study revealed that figure had increased to just 2.65%. On average there were 10 days a month in print media when women’s sports received absolutely no mention at all.

 [3]       Vision 21 telephone survey of 625 adults aged over 16. Fieldwork conducted between November 2003. Some 88% of respondents answered “yes” when asked if it was important to see more about Britain’s successful sports women in the media. When asked “Would you watch more women’s sport if it was on television” a total of 45% said “Yes” with a further 20% answering “Perhaps”. Just over a third (34.5%) said “No” or “Probably not. “

A more detailed summary of the results appear on the next page of this release.

 [4]      ‘Britain’s best kept secrets’ is available on the WSF website at:  (see attachment for hyperlink)  and features comments from, amongst others, current DCMS Secretary of State the Rt Hon Tessa Jowell, Olympic gold medallists Sally Gunnell, Denise Lewis and Sharron Davies, less well known sportswomen such as gymnast Beth Tweddle, rower Cath Bishop and wakeboarding’s Louise Moore, plus journalists such as the Sunday Mirror’s Craig Tregurtha and the BBC’s Clare Balding.


 Deborah Potts                                               Helen Donohoe                   

WSF Chief Executive                                   WSF Policy and Research Manager

(w)                                          (w)




Key findings from a survey of 625 adults aged over 16 by Vision 21

65% of those questioned answered "Yes" or "Perhaps" when asked if they would watch more women’s sport if it was on television
 Of those answering “Yes”, 50% were men compared to 40% of women
 62% of all respondents said they would like to see more media coverage of women’s sport in their region or local area

 As many as 7 in 10 respondents agreed that women's sport deserves to have the same amount of TV coverage as men’s sport

Some 88% of respondents said it was important to see more about Britain’s successful sports women in the media. 

Just 6% of those surveyed disagreed with the above statement

87% of respondents agreed that having more female sports stars featured on television would encourage girls to play more sport

Similarly, eight out of ten respondents felt that more women’s sport in the media would help develop more women champions for Britain

Two-thirds of respondents were unable to name three current female sports stars.

60% of the sample could not name any British female world champions, or their sport

Survey sample

Of the 625 respondents: