Welsh leagues behind in televising female sport

Wales Women playing against the Armed Forces Image credit: flickr via John Walton

By Rosie Foley

As women’s sport is growing rapidly in popularity, so is its coverage. However, most of this coverage is found across England, due mainly to the plethora of female sport shown across Sky, whilst Wales is lagging behind.

Over the summer, Sky doubled the number of KIA Super League matches that they showed in comparison to last year, and also covered England Women’s ODI’s and T20 tri-series, whilst they are currently covering the national team’s matches in the ICC Twenty20 World.

At the forefront of Sky’s female sporting coverage is netball, with the international Quad Series meetings, Vitality Superleague and All-Star Fast 5’s all being shown. Alongside this, all five golf majors will be available for viewers at home.

Coverage of women’s rugby is also impressive in England, with confirmation this month that, in addition to the ongoing Red Roses Quilter Internationals, all of England’s Six Nation games will be shown on Sky Sports from February.

Furthermore, as one of the most popular sports in the country, a variety of channels, including the BBC, regularly show live coverage of women’s football, at both international and club level.

The same can be said for Ireland, where traditional sports of women’s Gaelic football and camogie are regularly televised.

However, whilst Ireland’s women’s rugby team do not get much coverage, the sport has had a breakthrough in Scotland. Dominic McKay, Chief Operating Officer at Scottish Rugby, had said that the union are “working hard to ensure that women’s rugby has the strongest platform possible to broaden the appeal of the game”.

In doing so, this month, Scotland Women reached a deal with BBC ALBA to have an unprecedented number of games broadcast over the next year. This will include coverage of their Six Nations campaign and the final of the Sarah Beaney cup, the leading Scottish women’s amateur competition.

As rugby is the most popular sport in Wales, and female participation in the game is growing, the women’s national team deserve to have their games televised. Whilst an occasional match may be shown on S4C, women’s rugby needs to strike a deal like that of their Scottish counterparts for the game to get the exposure it needs.

This also applies to women’s football in Wales. When the Welsh national team came incredibly close to landing a World Cup play-off place in September, questions were asked as to why the game was not televised, with many believing that it would have been had the men’s team been playing.

Whilst there may be some who argue that there simply isn’t the demand for televised women’s sport, a recent petition demanding that all of the Wales women’s rugby games be televised suggests otherwise. Shelley Black started the petition on November 11th, and overnight it had reached 2,500 signatures.
Black argues that whilst “major games like the Six Nations are finally starting to get some coverage,” autumn internationals and lower level games are not given the air time that they need, before going on to say how she does not want her daughter or any aspiring girls to “wonder why the ladies games are not valid enough” to be played.

This is seemingly a recurring theme in Welsh women’s sport. Both the national rugby and football teams are reaching new heights, yet we as a public are not able to watch it on television. As sports fans, we can only hope that the WRU and FAW can make the necessary agreements for more coverage to be made available for the leading female sports in Wales.

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